SkyWest may have found a neat workaround to sustain scheduled service to small markets while filling the flight decks with its most experienced captains and least experienced FOs. The regional giant has created a small charter subsidiary called SkyWest Charter LLC (SWC) and applied for a Part 135 commuter air carrier authorization. It proposes to use CRJ-200s with 30 passenger seats to serve communities that have lost or are at risk of losing scheduled service because of the staffing shortage. As a charter, the new subsidiary is not covered by the minimum 1500-hour experience rule for right seaters, nor is it bound by the 65-year-old mandatory retirement age for old hands. FOs will need a commercial multi-IFR certificate and 250 hours and the captains can keep flying until they lose their medicals.
The big SkyWest has already flown the same aircraft on the same routes, and the charter would potentially prevent the mother airline from cutting or eliminating service to those communities. SkyWest says it’s ready to get the service going and is asking the FAA for a quick decision, listing 11 markets that could be cut. “The requested authority is critical to maintaining service in the underserved markets identified herein,” the company said in its submission. It also suggested the flying public will not notice a change in the service other than a livery change to remove the United Express association. “In fact, most of the key personnel have hands-on experience providing service in these markets with the same aircraft type that will be used by SWC making SWC particularly well suited to provide the scheduled commuter air transportation services for which authority is being requested.”