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"The" Pilot Shortage is here!

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Joined: 24 Mar 2011
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2011 4:09 pm    Post subject: "The" Pilot Shortage is here! Reply with quote

Magazines articles and flight school advertisements have trumpeted it for years, but it seems a real pilot shortage in the USA and around the world is around the corner, or 'here', depending on who you talk to.

This doesn't mean that a major domestic or international airline will hire you off the street with only your private pilot liscense, however. Not yet and not in the forseeable future, anyway, but things could always change. The shortage will occur and is occuring at the lower levels of aviation, the flight instructor, charter, small plane cargo, and commuter and regional airline level.

As many aging pilots reach retirement age over the next 5-10 years, a great need for pilots will occur at all levels, as younger, qualified pilots replace them and create a need to hire new pilots at the lower levels.

At the same time three factors have produced a low supply of new pilots. One: the high cost of civilian pilot training has discouraged many from persuing the career. Pilot training starts are at very low levels. Two: Lower level pilot salaries and benefits discourage pilots from staying in the career or starting one. Three: Military pilots coming to the airline industry are fewer in number than in the past, because they serve longer, there are fewer of them to begin with, and more choose not to have an airline pilot career.

My contacts in the regional airline industry tell me that they are having a hard time finding pilots who are qualified and capable to complete the strenuous training involved.

If you want to be a professional pilot, now is the time to be training and earning your pilot certificates. With a lack of supply and the same demand, airlines will be increasing pay, benefits, and providing bonuses to attract qualified pilots. You will still need to be intelligent, have good social skills, and have good pilot skills, especially instrument skills, but there will be opportunities aplenty, I believe for pilots to start a career in the near future.

The worst case scenario, for the airlines, is that so few capable and qualified pilots will be available that planes will be parked and flights will be cancelled for lack of pilots to fly them. At the regional level, larger planes will be operated than now, and the flights will be less frequent. I'm not promising that this will happen, but it could.

This will take years, more than a decade to pan out. A shortage will be good for the quality of life of pilots, as wages and benefits do generally increase as demand increases and as supply decreases. It is up to airline pilots and their unions to ensure that (1) they are given a minimum of what they deserve and (2) they are given what the free market 'can afford'. The best airlines will regonize this dynamic and respond appropriately.

Airline and fractional flying requires many qualifications and sacrifices, but for those who love flying enough to tolerate and manage the disadvantages, it will still be a worthwhile career for the future.
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