The Lingering Pilot Shortage

The world of commercial aviation pilots is currently in limbo. Airlines are required to cancel flights due to the lack of flight crew. Leaving customers upset and airlines itching for new pilots. The FAA has adopted a rule by the ICAO ( International Civil Aviation Authority) that requires commercial airline pilots to retire at the age of 65. However, other aviation authorities around the globe have pushed that age a little further to hopefully aid them with their pilot shortage.

Airlines like United, Delta, American, and Southwest have an average pilot age of 53. That leaves most of their pilots only a few years away from retirement. With the ever growing fleets of these major airlines, theirs also a growing demand for pilots. Although it may seem like an incredible career choice, the price to get their is pretty hefty. In the US the average price for a pilots license will land you anywhere from 8,000-13,000 USD depending on how many flight hours you need to fully comprehend the flight maneuvers. If your on the path to the flight deck this can run you up to approximately $75,000 depending on how many flight hours you require. The price is anywhere from 80,000-100,000 Pounds if you decide to partake in your training in Europe.

If the price of training is that steep then how do these airlines still find pilots? Airlines (mostly regional) are offering very generous sign on bonuses of up to $21,000. This draws pilots to the regional airlines whom then upgrade to a captain position in some cases in under 2 years. When these pilots have gained enough time at the regional airlines they then offer a flow through program where pilots flow through to the regional airlines partner which is most often a major airline like America, Delta, etc…

What if pilots want to go right to the major? Since some airlines are hurting for pilots, this could be an option. As long as you reach the 1,500 hour requirement of course. To reach this flight time requirement most pilots have to become a CFI (certified flight instructor) to build more hours. Pilots also have the option starting at around 300 hours to try out companies who do banner towing operations, or even aerial surveying, and lastly skydiving operations.

How do airlines plan to fix this pilot shortage? It’ll be a long road ahead to overcome this shortage for sure. Boeing, Airbus, and Embraer all predict a massive increase in demand for pilots with all the new aircraft coming into production. So some airlines have resorted to taking pilots from the regionals, Some have offered to train pilots in their own programs, and Airlines like Delta have even offered to give their employee’s working on the ramp or in airport ops time off to get involved in flight training and hopefully make the move to the flight deck.

Airlines are always coming up with innovative ways to broaden their companies in difficult situations. Do you think this pilot shortage will affect many airlines daily operations? We want to hear from you. Whether your a student or working for the airlines already, what is your perspective of this ongoing shortage?

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Jake Smith
Jake Smith
Director of Special Projects - Jake is an experienced aviation journalist and strategic leader, regularly contributing to the commercial aviation section of Travel Radar alongside leading strategy and innovation including livestreaming and our store.



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