McCOOK, Neb. — Great Lakes Airlines will suspend its flights to and from McCook Ben Nelson Regional Airport in southwestern Nebraska next month.

Commercial air service will be suspended effective April 1 through April 27, Great Lakes Airlines announced Wednesday. The airline currently offers flights from McCook to Denver and back.

The airline also announced it was suspending flights in Great Bend, Kan., and Williston, N.D., McCook Public Works Director Kyle Potthoff told the McCook Daily Gazette. That follows a previous round flight suspensions announced in January for several Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota cities.

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The Cheyenne, Wyo.-based airline said the decision was due to a "severe industry-wide pilot shortage."

Great Lakes Chief Executive Officer Charles Howell has said a federal requirement that pilots at small airlines have 1,500 hours of experience, instead of the previous requirement of 500 hours, has left it without enough pilots to staff its routes.

City officials are considering proposals from SeaPort Airlines, of Portland, Ore., that would offer weekend round-trip flights from McCook to Omaha, to Wichita, or a combination of flights to Kansas City, Mo., and Wichita.

McCook residents will have an opportunity to voice their concerns about the flight suspension during a public meeting between U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., and city officials Monday. The meeting is open to the public and intended to be an opportunity to discuss and gather input about essential air service and the effects of the new pilot training requirements.

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