Is there really a pilot shortage?
"RIGHT RUDDER! RIGHT RUDDER! FLY THE PLANE!" is seared in my memory. It was the bark of my flight instructor during my very first take off sequence. My instructor became concerned as I started to drift left on the takeoff roll. While my instructor was nervous (rightfully so), I was having a blast and enjoying every moment of it. What's it feel like to achieve my Private Pilot's License (PPL)? Awesome. My continued training? Fantastic. I absolutely love it, perhaps more even more than golf! I am still a low time pilot but I have loved every moment of instruction.
So this raises a troubling question. How can it be, in such a cool and exhilarating activity, that there exists this so called shortage of pilots? Is it a myth? Is it a reality? The short answer is, it depends on what type of pilot we're talking about.
Let's stop here for just a moment and clarify where the shortage appears to exist--the U.S. airline industry. The Boeing Company's 2019 Boeing Pilot & Technician Outlook projects:
"804,000 new civil aviation pilots, 769,000 new maintenance technicians, and 914,000 new cabin crew will be needed to fly and maintain the world fleet over the next 20 years. The forecast is inclusive of the commercial aviation, business aviation, and civil helicopter industries. . . . Over the next 20 years, the Asia Pacific region will lead the worldwide growth in demand for pilots, with a requirement for 266,000 new pilots. North America will require 212,000, Europe 148,000, the Middle East 68,000, Latin America 54,000, Africa 29,000 and Russia / Central Asia 27,000. "
Boeing has based this demand outlook on a perception that commercial air travel will double. And indeed they are right. Demand in Asia is very high but those willing to sacrifice to get there? Not so high. Why is that?
All pilots start out the same way but they are not equal. There are loads of ready-to-fly pilots but these pilots are not skilled and experienced pilots. After all, the airlines require more than just a pulse and a license. There is a massive shortage of experience.
In the United States, civilian pilots secure their own FAA credentials, they log hundreds of hours of flight time--no thousands of hours of flight time--before applying at a regional and then a "legacy" airline. To get to that skilled and experienced level, it’s a slow and very expensive process exceeding $80,000. And, once a pilot has reached that sought after level, one must have the right attitude, personality, and ability to cope under pressure. These things dictate whether a pilot will get hired. Airlines are looking for the best they can find. They have to. When I travel on a commercial flight, I do not want a 200 hour pilot. I want someone who knows what they're doing. I want quality. Don't you? It's what the public, the airlines, the FAA, and the NTSB want.
There is a present "ready to fly" shortage of experienced pilots in the U.S. That causes increased demand for experienced pilots, especially when current pilots are retiring and aging out of the work force. The U.S. Airforce is even feeling the pinch and is running a deficit of about 800 active duty pilots and 1,150 reserve pilots. Yet the market place is already addressing this shortage through flight schools like Piston2Jet. At Piston2Jet, if you put the effort and time in to training and education--if you have the character and right attitude--you will through sheer perseverance, land one of the coveted roles in a flight crew.