A report from the Proposition RJ lobby group calling for a relaxation of current scope clauses has drawn a sharp response from the US Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), marking the opening arguments in a growing debate over US carrier restrictions on the use of regional aircraft.

Proposition RJ, which comprises airports, regional aircraft manufacturers and consumer groups, contends that local communities, airlines and labour unions stand to benefit from a lifting of "artificial limits" on the use of 50-seat or smaller regional jets.

It estimates that there are 1,452 unused "spoke-to-hub" routes that could support regional jet services and generate nearly half a million passengers a day each way. Five of the top seven US airlines have scope clause agreements with pilots capping the number of regional jets they can operate (Flight International 5-11 May).

The report commissioned by the coalition, produced by consultancy GKMG, adds that this would not only secure 1,350 mainline pilot positions it considers are at risk from competition from airlines unconstrained by scope clause, but would create more jobs.

ALPA International president Capt Duane Woerth claims the report is "technically flawed" and accuses the study of greatly inflating the potential for regional jet services by "double and triple counting" route opportunities that are only large enough to support one carrier at most.

Source: Flight International