The perceived present pilot surplus is set to rapidly swing to a pilot shortage once again. By 2025, demand could outweigh supply by some 34,000. Despite COVID, there’s a huge opportunity right now for aspiring pilots. We take a look at the situation, and how the Complete Pilot Selection Handbook can help kick-start a new career.
From shortage to surplus (to shortage again)
Pre-COVID, there were many conversations about a looming global pilot shortage. In the US, the issues included an aging cohort rapidly approaching mandatory retirement age, as well as the high costs of training and fewer pilots exiting the military. In other geographies, it was more about simply scaling up at the same pace as travel demand was growing.
But as the pandemic knocked the wind out of travel, almost overnight airlines were facing a huge surplus of qualified pilots. For airlines that were facing a looming crisis in pilot recruitment, this provided a temporary reprieve. However, as we’ve already seen, the problem has not gone away.
As traffic has picked back up, particularly in the US domestic market, we’re starting to see the shape of things to come. Delta Air Lines has begun hiring pilots once again, and is looking to recruit more than 1,000 pilots by next summer. Qatar is bringing back pilots and crew from their previously furloughed positions, while United’s CEO Scott Kirby has already flagged a looming shortage of qualified talent on the market. And he’s right.
The pilot shortage in numbers
A recent study by Geoff Murray at Oliver Wyman highlighted the problem that is facing the aviation sector. Murray states that it is not a case of whether a pilot shortage will re-emerge, but when and how significant it will be.
Industry predictions on the recovery of aviation suggest that from 2022 to 2024 we can expect to be back to something in the region of 2019 levels of travel. Will the pilot supply be able to cope with the build-back? The numbers suggest not.
Murray’s research shows that a global pilot shortage will begin to emerge in some regions no later than 2023, possibly sooner. In the case of an accelerated recovery, it could be as soon as later this year. Predictions are that there will be a gap of some 34,000 pilots by 2025, although in extreme circumstances this figure could be as high as 50,000.
Given a moderate recovery trajectory, Murray predicts a global shortage of around 60,000 pilots by the end of the decade. That presents a challenge for airlines, and an opportunity for ambitious individuals looking to break into the industry.
An opportunity for aspiring pilots
Right now, there are many pilots fighting to return to their jobs. Some pilots who lost their jobs will be looking to get back into the industry, but a significant number will not. Some may have taken the opportunity to retire a little earlier, or to explore other career paths. Murray’s report suggests that as many as 25,000 to 35,000 pilots will have left the industry in 2020 for good.
This represents a huge opportunity for those willing to take the plunge to get into the world of aviation. Crises such as 9/11 and the global financial crisis often create something of a ‘supply shock’, with new pilot certifications dropping by as much as 30 or 40% as a result.
To tackle this, some airlines are already talking about taking pilot training in-house, in a bid to remove some of the barriers to certification. This can mean new forms of funding, easier access to support and more impetus to recruit pilots from under-represented sections of society.
With barriers removed, competition reduced and demand surging, now is shaping up to be a great time to begin training to be a pilot. But, of course, there’s still the selection process to get through.
Flying through pilot selection
For those aspiring to become a pilot for the first time, or even those who are already qualified but are looking to move up the career ladder, the pilot selection process can be a daunting prospect. From medical checks to aptitude tests and more, facing such a stringent set of requirements is enough to shake up even the most capable candidate.
But there is a resource to help. The Complete Pilot Selection Handbook has been developed by long-time selection specialist Michel Treskin in partnership with OSM Aviation Director Stein Mjåtveit. After a long career as an active pilot, Treskin spent more than a decade selecting pilots for Emirates, before becoming the Head of Pilot Selection for OSM Aviation.
As Treskin described it to Simple Flying, he has taken everything he knows about getting through the selection procedure and poured it into his new book. The Handbook takes the reader through everything from flight academy aptitude tests to acing the interview at the airline itself.
Broken down into easy-to-digest sections, the Handbook addresses all the soft skills required for competent pilots, as well as the new EASA competency-based training and assessment requirements. It looks into the hard skills of manual flying, as well as what to expect from simulator assessments and COMPASS screening tests.
For anyone looking to move into aviation, or indeed to move up the career ladder, the book is a must-read. It’s available on Amazon (Kindle) and Apple Books for $9.99 and is about the best investment a future pilot can make to ensure they breeze the selection process.
This article was sponsored by The Complete Pilot Selection Handbook: For aspiring pilots, First Officers, and Captains