Pilot Shortage: Will demand overtake supply?

In Airlines by katy1 Comment

Whilst airlines are adamant that the recent talks of a pilot shortage does not indicate an empty cockpit on your next flight, it is important the industry pays special attention to a rapidly increasing demand which is trying to work alongside a sluggish supply.

Boeing recently reported that there is an increasing global demand for more pilots and aircraft-maintenance technicians. Whilst this indicates a positive boom within the industry, there is also a worry  airlines might struggle to provide the all important crew members. The forecast predicted by Boeing suggests that more than half a million new commercial pilots, and nearly 600,000 maintenance technicians will be needed worldwide in the next two decades.

Boeing’s vice president of flight services, Sherry Carbary, reflected upon the pilot and technician supply within the U.S, ‘it is currently keeping with demand, but there could be an issue in some of these developing countries if we don’t come together and deal with it.’

Carbary’s reflection can be reinforced by news announced in May of this year, which revealed that new low-cost carriers in Japan suffered a series of flight cancellations due to a pilot shortage.

So where is this problem stemming from? And what can airlines do to try and avoid it progressing? The biggest obstacle for airlines reverts back to what pilots get paid. Research reflects that more student and graduates would want to attend flight schools if regional airlines paid more.

Aviation consultant Kit Darby suggests why smaller planes are struggling to seek pilots more than others; ‘Aircraft size also affects the pay so these jets are at the bottom of the food chain. For the regional airline, the shortage arrived about a year ago and it is now approaching the acute phase where they cannot fly all of their routes so they are offering signing bonuses up to $12, 000 and employ recruiting bonuses up to $2, 500.’

A study completed the U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggested that ‘flight schools reported fewer students entering their programs resulting from concerns over the high costs of education and low entry-level pay at regional airlines.’

The Federal Aviation Administration have already extended the mandatory retirement age from 60 to 65, this can not be increased any further. A serious assessment in going forward will now need to be addressed. In doing so, the sector will begin to concentrate its efforts in creating further opportunities for young people in a bid to create a career path within aviation which is much more accessible. JetBlue, as seen below, have already began to do this.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoGKWJOueKw?list=UUFXno2GGPrAW-XU0pOc4QoA]

AirXperience Europe 2014


  1. Sherman Kensinga

    The big U.S. flight academies are full of foreign students, over 90% foreign students, and only graduating a handful of American pilots per year now. The major airlines are hiring over 4000 pilots per year, mostly from the regionals. The regionals have around 16,000-18,000 pilots total, and they are so short of pilots they are parking jets and reducing operations. The regionals handle half of domestic flying in the U.S., and over 70% of U.S. cities with scheduled air service have only regional airlines. All of this as we are about to begin the biggest airline pilot retirement surge in history.

    It takes around six years for a non-pilot to be qualified to fly an airliner. One in ten who start make it through the training. So we need tens of thousands of additional young Americans to start flight training, years ago, or we will have a serious crisis.

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