The COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to a standstill and accelerated the growing issue of a shortage of new pilots joining airlines.
By 2025, there will be a reduction of 34,000 commercial pilots if global demand for domestic and international travel continues to recover and rise above 2019 levels.
The growing shortage
When the world went into lockdown, many airlines offered early retirement incentives to senior pilots to save money and manage issues such as furlough. From late 2021, as the travel industry started to pick up again, the demand for travel and pilots increased, yet airlines found themselves with fewer pilots than they’d had before the pandemic.
Airlines then found themselves in a tricky situation – they needed new pilots but they were incredibly hard to come by. This was due to how long it takes to graduate and become FAA-certified (certified by the Federal Aviation Administration), and because of how expensive it was to start learning in the first place.
While the steady growth in pilot shortages across the globe started before COVID for reasons such as greater pay expected from pilots, it is clear that the pandemic made the problem harder to ignore and adapt to.
The industry is still recovering from the crippling impact of the pandemic, but, arguably, this new challenge has the potential to be just as damaging.
Female representation in aviation
The aviation industry isn’t immune to a lack of diversity. In 2021, there were only 64,979 female pilots – a drastically low number when you consider the fact that it only makes up 9.02% of the total.
Men overwhelmingly make up the majority of pilots across the world; and once you consider the fact only 6.03% of women are FAA-certified pilots (in 2021), it becomes even more disappointing.
In this day and age, women only make up the majority within the aviation industry in flight attendant roles.
In 2021, India was the leading country in regards to female pilots in the world, with approximately 12.4% of Indian pilots being female.
Republic Airways’ mission to hire more women
Regional U.S airline Republic Airways is looking to inspire the next generation of pilots to enter the aviation industry, with a specific focus on women.
Paige Bova, a communications specialist for Republic Airways, spoke of the motivations behind the airline’s goal.
Historically it has been a male-dominated industry and we are trying to change that […] We want to bring everybody in because there is a place for everyone in aviation.
Republic Airways had already attempted to target the approaching shortage by launching ‘Lift Academy’ in 2018. The programme advocates their lenient criteria, citing that all you need is a personal dedication to fly, attracting those who “never thought they could achieve” their dream.
In light of Women’s History Month, Republic Airways is hosting an event called Aviation Exploratory Night for Women.
Taking place on 24 March, panellists include Republic Airways’ Chief Pilot Ashley Gomez and other female industry leaders who will discuss what their experience within the aviation industry is like. Gomez already does a lot of work in promoting women in aviation on behalf of Republic Airways, one being in the form of online talks.
Action was taken elsewhere
Swiss budget airline EasyJet announced earlier this year plans to boost its recruitment drive for pilots with a focus on hiring females, as it opens its pilot training programme for the first time.
The airliner stated that they wish to tackle the gender imbalance in the aviation industry.
Major U.S airline United Airlines spoke of its plans in April 2021 to train 5,000 new pilots in the next ten years through its ‘Aviate’ pilot recruitment programme. They pledged for at least half of that number to be women and people of colour.
Boeing has projected that the aviation industry will need at least 612,000 new pilots across the world over the next 20 years. We can only hope that a significant chunk of that number includes women.
Do you think the aviation industry could do more to boost the number of female pilots? Let us know.