AMT Exclusive: An Interview with RAA President Roger Cohen

With nearly 50 percent of the nation’s commercial airline schedule operated by regional airlines, Roger Cohen provides his view on industry trends, regulators, and globalization.

One of every five domestic airline passengers will travel on one of the 2,700 regional aircraft that serve around 658 cities across the United States and in 470 of those regional airlines provide the only scheduled service. They make about 13,000 flights a day carrying about 160 million passengers a year. Looking after their best collective interest is the Regional Airline Association (RAA), a business association headquartered in Washington, D.C., that represents members’ interests in Congressional hearings and before the Department of Transportation, the FAA, and other agencies.

Roger Cohen is president of the RAA. He came to RAA in December 2006 with extensive experience as an aviation advocate representing Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association, the Air Transport Association, and he also worked for 10 years at Trans World Airlines. Cohen holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Recently, Roger Cohen agreed to an interview with Aircraft Maintenance Technology (AMT) Magazine.

AMT: Roger, thank you for taking time from your busy day to visit with AMT. After reviewing the Regional Airline Association (RAA) web site it appears that the association is very engaged in representing the member airlines in a variety of areas. The issue of airline safety appears to be an underlying theme in many initiatives. Could we start from the top with what is the overall mission of the RAA?

Cohen: The written mission statement is: With safety as its highest priority, RAA represents North American regional airlines, and the manufacturers of products and services supporting the regional airline industry, before the Congress, DOT, the FAA, and other federal agencies.

To take that statement to another level, our primary mission is to serve as our members’ eyes, ears and voice in Washington. Most of our member airlines don’t have full time government affairs people here in Washington so we represent them to the decision makers. As you know, virtually every decision made about our industry gets made here in Washington.

AMT: What is the principle value that RAA provides for member airlines?

Cohen: The RAA has been active since the birth of the regional airline industry. From 1977-78 it was called the Commuter Airlines Association and there were about 230 regional airlines flying about 11 million passengers a year. Today our 28 member airlines operate about one half of the scheduled flights in the United States and last year they flew about 160 million passengers. RAA has been the one constant in all of the growth and change, working to ensure that members have the seat at the table that we enjoy today. RAA has been there every step of the way in that 35-year journey, helping to guide and create a climate so that our industry could grow and operate as safely and efficiently as it does today.

AMT: Last July in a Wichita, Kansas Aero Club meeting, you were quoted by Daniel McCoy, reporter for the Wichita Business Journal, as saying: “There is one issue that keeps me up at night and it’s an issue that anybody concerned about the future of aviation needs to be aware of. The supply of pilots is going to be a major, major issue for us. The pilot shortage is coming and it’s going to have a real-world impact. According to a recent forecast from Boeing, the world will need nearly 500,000 new airline pilots during the next 20 years.” Some say that maintenance operations are facing a similar problem. How is the RAA or specific member airlines addressing the issue of our aging maintenance work force?

Cohen: There is a renewed recognition within our membership, not only our airline members but our associate members also, that our maintenance human resources issues are a challenge for the airline industry and the regional sector in particular. RAA has re-doubled our effort to reinvigorate our members to address these human resources issues. This is going to be one of our primary focuses in 2013 and at our upcoming convention in Montreal.

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