YAKIMA, WA - Airlines across the nation canceled over 1,700 flights this past fathers day weekend, according to tracking service FlightAware.
Locally we're not having as many flight delays and cancelations but we're still short staffed.
When speaking with the interim director for the Yakima Airport McAllister Field, Jaime Vera, he told me the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge toll on the airline industry.
"Cause of COVID we lost over 8,000 pilots industry-wide you know?" said Vera. "So nobody anticipated that COVID would end so soon and so now there's a hole that we need to fill so there's a pilot shortage. So the airlines are doing everything they can to get these new pilots trained up and ready to go and so it's going to take some time to get there."
At Yakima Airport there haven't been too many cancelations or flight delays but having a pilot shortage is still affecting them.
The airport has two commercial flights from Alaska Airlines going out every day but they are planning on just having one starting in September. The reason for its cutback is that the airport is trying to keep its main airline, Alaska Airlines, and help with the pilot shortage.
Also, Yakima Airport's air traffic control tower is back up and running with a temporary replacement.
On May 20, 2022, a speeding car crashed into the air traffic control tower killing the driver, 19-year-old Vance Jourdan III, and putting his 23-year-old passenger in the hospital. The original air traffic control was damaged from the crash.
For a few days after the crash, the airport ran as an uncontrolled airfield. During that period in May, pilots had to communicate with other pilots letting them know when they would land without an air traffic control tower.
Now, Yakima Airport has a temporary control tower but there are still some issues...
"There is a challenge in what they (the air traffic controllers) can see and so getting them back up to where they need to be would help with safety," said Vera. "There's also a break in communications because the antennas that are set out are on the ground versus in the air so the range is limited."
The current temporary air traffic control tower only can talk to pilots if they are within 5 to 10 miles of flying range of the airport. Before, the old tower could speak up to 30 miles out.
Another issue is if there's bad weather, the tower could possibly go down and pilots would have to land in an uncontrolled airfield again.
Right now the Yakima Airport is hoping to get a more permanent solution soon, the biggest issue is funding from the FAA.