CLEVELAND — Linda Markham, Cape Air’s President, spoke to the media at the Regional Airline Association Convention Wednesday morning.
The airline is doing pretty well overall; Markham explained that the airline has seen its largest growth in about 20-25 years. Last year, the airline flew about 750,000 passengers in the five different regions, and the airline recently added two Cessna Caravan Amphibious aircraft to its fleet for a start-up operation between a resort in Bimini, Bahamas and Miami’s Watson Island seaplane base near downtown. Plus, the airline continues to be profitable.
The airline plans to upgrade its fleet to replace the 84 Cessna 402s in its fleet, but Markham explained that the airline is taking the decision very seriously as it will have a big impact. Last year, Markham said it would be about 24 months until a decision will be made, but now, she declined to give any sort of timeline.
Although, it was noted that the airline plans to have 10-15% fewer aircraft when its new fleet is fully integrated into its operation, but the airline plans for there to be some growth with the new aircraft.
Not a lot of growth is expected in the near future, although. Markham went on to explain that the pilot shortage is causing some issues for the airline. Two of its cities, Anguilla and Nevis, will become seasonal, due to the pilot shortage. She said that this is difficult for the company as well as the communities it serves.
Right now, Cape Air is down 20-25 pilots. Now, the airline is hiring pilots and many are coming through the Gateway Program; the JetBlue University Gateway Program has a partnership at six universities in the United States which students apply to to then complete an internship at Cape Air, ExpressJet, or JetBlue, flight instruct for a year at their educational institution, and then transition to flying at Cape Air or ExpressJet.
After gaining 2-3 years of experience and accruing approximately 3500 flight hours, the Gateway Program aviator can then transition to JetBlue in a First Officer position. This talent pipeline was one of the first of its kind and has proved to be a great way to flow pilots from their respective AABI-accredited universities all the way to JetBlue.
Markham said that this has proved to work well with the airline with 22 of the participants already sitting in the left seat at JetBlue, and Cape Air sees this as a big recovery tool with the pilot shortage. Though, the airline continues to look at expanding with other universities and companies to help establish more opportunities for pilots at Cape Air for when they are able and ready to move on.