SALISBURY, Md.- Fewer flights are leaving the Salisbury Regional Airport, according to airport manager Tony Rudy. He said it is not because of a lack of demand, but because there are fewer pilots to fly more flights.
"We're down a few flights a day from where we were a couple years ago right before the pandemic," Rudy said. This is a nationwide problem. We knew it was coming long before the pandemic because the average age of pilots is quite high and there is a mandatory retirement age of 65. A lot of these pilots who are retiring out of the system used to fly for the military… Once they got out of the military the airlines picked them up. That pool of available personnel is a lot less today than many years ago when the pilots started flying for the airlines."
Rudy says the airport's number of passengers has dropped by 60%. He said six flights left the airport on average; now there are about four each day. Piedmont Airlines, the airline out of Salisbury, says it recognizes the issue.
"It certainly is impacting Piedmont. We have had a reduction in the amount of flights we've been able to conduct compared to the number of flights we would have liked," said Piedmont Airlines Vice President of Flight Operations Eddie Leverton.
Rudy said the airline has taken steps to draw more pilots to Piedmont.
"Piedmont Airlines has been taking the initiative of trying to pick up pilots," he said. "They're the highest paid regional carrier. They are offering very attractive signing bonuses to join Piedmont. So they've been very aggressive in solving this problem."
Piedmont announced pay increases earlier in 2022. Leverton said this initiative has already yielded more employees, but added that it will take some time for the pilots to be ready to fly for the airline.