National carriers pursue Yukon pilots amid Canada-wide shortage

The Yukon airline industry says it's not immune to a nation-wide pilot shortage.

The Air Transportation Association of Canada estimates industry is short more than 300 pilots

An Alkan Air Dornier 228, in Whitehorse. Local airlines face competition from larger, national carriers for their pilots. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

A shortage of pilots across Canada is affecting the Yukon's airline industry.

Commercial pilots are starting to retire in large numbers and there are not enough people being trained to replace them.

"We are fortunate in the Yukon Territory to be in a unique part of the country that people enjoy living in," says Wendy Taylor, president of Alkan Air. "However, I can confirm that the major carriers are certainly seeking our pilots and we are losing some of them."

Wendy Taylor, president of Alkan Air, says local airlines are losing some pilots to national airlines. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

Taylor says without question all local carriers are going to face pilot shortages.

The Air Transportation Association of Canada estimates the industry is short over 300 pilots.

Air North president Joe Sparling says flight schools need to attract and train more pilots.
Air North president Joe Sparling says his company lost three or four employees last spring to national airlines.

Recently, some of his commercial pilots took jobs with national airlines.

"We lost three or four people last spring and I think it has caused us to think about steps that we might take to address the issue," said Sparling.

He says it's not a money issue, because the pilots who left Air North had to take pay cuts with their new jobs.

Sparling says, pilots likely choose to move south for lifestyle reasons. 

John McKenna is the president of the Air Transportation Association of Canada.

John McKenna is the president & CEO of Air Transport Association of Canada, representing 80 airlines and flight training organizations. (Ashley Burke/CBC )

He says it can cost over $80,000 to train a commercial pilot, so it's important to attract and retain them.

"A company like Air North, they fly 737's which is what Sunwing fly, what Westjet fly, so it is one of the most popular airplanes in the world. So, those pilots are in high demand," said McKenna.

He says some airline's pilots are getting scooped up by national carriers before the local carrier can recoup their investment.

Sparling says one of the benefits of working for Air North is most days pilots can come home to their own bed.


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