This is your captain eking out a living: GAO on pilot shortage

      EUGENE, Ore. - A government report warning of regional airline service disruption could have ripple effects on passengers flying out of airport like Eugene.

      The Eugene Airport is busier than ever and does not foresee a disruption in service at this time, according to sources there.

      A report releases by the Government Accountability Office stated regional airlines were facing a pilot shortage because of low wages the industry gives to entry-level regional first officers.

      The report stated that pilots starting out make an average of nearly $24,000, but some airlines had base salaries beginning at $16,500 and $18,500.

      "I have a friend working for a regional right now, and he says he's making more than they advertise," said Elliott Ericson, a flight instructor. "It's hard to say. Me having a family, I'm not as flexible as him. So it is a concern."

      Because of pilots unwilling to take these low wages, the GAO said small airports dependent on regional carriers for service could see a disruption of service because of a lack of crew availability for schedules routes.

      Great Lakes Airlines is the first of such regional carriers to cut service.

      The Wyoming-based airline cut flights from Devils Lake and Jamestown, North Dakota; Fort Dodge and Mason City, Iowa; Ironwood, Michigan; and Thief River Falls, Minn., "due to the severe industry-wide pilot shortage and its relative acute impact on Great Lakes."

      "Due to the unintended consequences of the new congressionally mandated pilot regulatory
      requirements," Charles Howell, CEO, said in a prepared release, "the Company feels it is in the
      best interest of our customers, communities, and employees to suspend service from these stations until we are able to rebuild our staff of pilots in order to provide reliable service. We deeply regret and apologize for this inconvenience."

      All customers with future flights in any of these stations will be given refunds, the airline said in January.

      GAO report "Aviation Workforce: Current and Future Availability of Airline Pilots"

      Great Lakes Airlines press release