What The World Pilot Shortage Means For You

In many of the articles that have been published here on Simple Flying, you would’ve read about some insane size orders for new aircraft coming from airlines.

Just recently at the Farnborough Air Show, it was announced that $110 billion dollars are being spent by airlines on orders to both Airbus and Boeing for new aircraft. In some cases, entire new fleets are on order for new airline businesses being created just to ferry passengers to holiday resorts and other exotic locations.

A demand for almost 800,000 pilots over the next 20 years in order to fly new planes and to replace retiring pilots.

The question on everyone’s mind is, where are all the pilots going to come from to fly these planes?

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A recent report from Boeing (called the 2018 Pilot & Technician Outlook), has revealed how big this shortage actually is. They are projecting a demand for almost 800,000 pilots over the next 20 years in order to fly new planes and to replace retiring pilots. To outline just how alarming the situation is becoming, it is estimated that there are currently only half a million pilots in-service or in active pilot training programs globally.

The report contends that this is not just due to the increasing demand for air travel but also the recent doubling of global commercial aeroplane supply and a restriction on programs to create new pilots.

Aeroplane pilots are not alone. The report projects a need for an additional 150,000 helicopter pilots and 132,000 helicopter mechanics as well.

How is this affecting air travel?

We are already starting to see this shortage affect air travel. In Australia, airlines are having to cancel flights as there is simply no one to fly the plane sitting at the gate. The largest regional area for this upcoming pilot shortage is in the Asia-Pacific region, which is attributed to 40% of the global shortfall. This is due to overseas airlines, particularly those in the Middle East and China, luring pilots from Australia, North America and New Zealand with lucrative contracts.

So far smaller regional and charter airlines have been hit the hardest, due to junior pilots taking on these lucrative contracts, some operators have had to periodically ground their entire fleet, costing them upwards of a million dollars a year.

“Traditionally you had pilots joining us for three to four years. It was like an apprenticeship, [But] we’ve seen junior pilots, who don’t really meet any of the minimum requirements that the airlines used to have, are now leaving us much sooner”

Chartair CEO, Douglas Hendry.

Boeing is coming to the party in an effort to decrease the pilot shortage by offering what they’re calling the ‘pilot development program’, a training program that is designed to guide future pilots from the early stages of training through to becoming a first officer for an airline. They are also going to be offering on-going crew efficiency training and operational tools to manage resources.

However, it is not all good news for employment in the aviation industry. Due to the planes being much easier to service and requiring less service over time (such as Boeing moving to a service model rather than just manufacturing aircraft), maintenance and technical demand will decrease slightly over the next 20 years.

It is also estimated that there is just under 1 million cabin crew globally, however, the new demand for aircraft and air travel is predicted to increase this number only slightly, to 32,000 additionally new crewmembers.

So, if you’re thinking of becoming a cabin crewmember we have some excellent guides on the site here about how to do it, written by an actual flight attendant who peels back the “first class” curtain of flight attendant lifestyle.

For the rest of us who are flying, we can expect far more cancellations from smaller airlines on the quieter routes.

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