Cape Air, one of the biggest independent regional airlines in the U.S., has cut another route, citing a shortage of pilots. The airline, which cancelled a route in Montana last week, will no longer fly from the Providence, Rhode Island, airport to Block Island, a popular vacation destination about 40 miles away. The airline doesn't expect to cut any more routes, and has a robust training program with enough pilots in the pipeline to keep its airplanes flying. Some pilots have volunteered to fly extra routes, and the airline also is continuing to actively recruit new pilots, including retired airline pilots. All of the requirements for new pilots are posted on Cape Air's website, and the company hopes to revive the Providence-to-Block Island route next year, Lorino said.
New FAA rules that took effect in 2014, requiring at least 1,000 hours instead of 250 for an ATP, have led to complaints from some airlines that it's harder to find qualified pilots. Cape Air needs 155 pilots to serve all of its usual routes but only has 100. The Rhode Island Airport Corporation has reached out to New England Airlines, which operates flights to Block Island out of Westerly, to cover the route from Providence for this summer. Without the Block Island service, vacationers flying into Providence would have to drive about 30 miles to catch a ferry or to reach the Westerly airport. Cape Air flies a fleet of 83 twin-engine Cessna 402s, four Britten-Norman Islanders, two Cessna Caravan amphibians and two ATR turboprops.