Rapid City Regional Airport held the Black Hills Air Service Summit on Wednesday, to get the community up to speed on the airline industry and to learn about some of the challenges that are impacting our local air service development.
Rapid City Regional Airport Executive Director Patrick Dame says because of strong tourism, Rapid City has fantastic air service.
He says although there has been a reduction in seats, there has been an increase in passengers on airplanes coming in and out of Rapid City.
One challenge, though, is a pilot shortage issue that Dame says is a crisis that's facing the industry overall.
Dame says, "That does cause a challenge for us going forward in the next few years here. We think that there's potential for reduction system wide and with that we are constantly working with carriers to ensure that we don't see reduction in air service."
One of the speakers, Fay Malarkey Black, the President of Regional Airline Association says the pilot shortage is one of their biggest challenges, adding that it's a contributing factor in hundreds of communities losing departures across the nation.
Black says, "We need to reduce the high barriers of entry to the career and ensure that federal regulations on pilot hiring standards are data driven and truly enhance safety and don't represent an artificially high barrier of entry to the career and we need to do everything we can to support pilots and in fact all walks of the aviation career throughout their career to encourage more to come in to the pipeline."
Black says since 2013, 309 communities across the United States have lost ten percent or more of their departures, 208 communities have lost 20 percent or more and 52 communities have lost all air service.