You may be one of the hopefuls who has wondered this, but there have always been reasons for the serious pilot shortage we are currently experiencing.
The global aviation industry forecast record passenger traffic and the requirement for additional planes and operators within the next twenty years, or more than three years ago, before the epidemic.
The pandemic struck soon after!
Hundreds of planes were grounded as airports and other transportation hubs went into lockdown. Additionally, all major U.S. airline companies received substantial federal funding, with the stipulation that they must maintain their regular service and cannot cancel flights or lay off staff.
However, the airlines were extremely frugal. They were unable to lay off any workers until the aid money ran out, but they could offer generous buyouts and early retirement to everyone.
Let’s learn more about what’s causing the pilot shortage!
Is There A Shortage Of Pilots?
Two subsequent events subsequently occurred virtually simultaneously!
In 2021, airline traffic began to recover, primarily due to an increase in the number of tourists taking to the skies again. The increased demand for flights led airline staff to incorrectly assume that all passengers wanted to depart for new destinations.
And then there was a mad dash to the new routes. Before the epidemic, Southwest Airlines would introduce at most one new route each year. However, Southwest has announced over two dozen new routes for 2021 and 2022. In addition, JetBlue also launched 29 new routes.
The scheduling departments of the airlines weren’t communicating with the operations departments, and that was the first issue. And as a result, several airlines were unexpectedly overbooked and understaffed, necessitating flight cancellations.
The shortages weren’t solely due to early buyouts, either. Because of elderly baby boomers leaving the workforce and a decrease in the number of people being trained to fill their seats, a shortage of pilots has developed.
Why Airline companies faced difficulty while hiring new pilots?
Traditionally, the vast majority of commercial airlines’ pilot staff came from the armed forces. The transition from the cabin of a military plane to that of an airliner was not as challenging.
Nonetheless, the effectiveness of that kind of recruitment has diminished significantly during the past two decades. The Air Force’s so-called “pilots” often lacked the training to operate aircraft. They were practicing to become expert players by learning to pilot drones.
The Air Force has been suffering from a pilot shortage since 2006, according to a Defense Department assessment from 2019, and the service reported a shortage of more than 1,500 pilots by the end of 2016. This imbalance is only anticipated to widen.
Written evidence provided to Congress in 2020 revealed that the shortage of pilots had worsened to a total of 2,100 by the conclusion of the 2019 fiscal year.
For years, the government has also fallen short of its targets in terms of producing enough trained pilots.
No easy solution exists. It’s not enough to hire somebody and let them do a test drive in the passenger seat. In most cases, aspiring pilots need a bachelor’s degree in addition to training from a program approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), followed by the successful completion of FAA-mandated written and practical exams for a private pilot’s license and the subsequent acquisition of an instrument rating.
The Federal Aviation Administration mandates a minimum of 250 flying hours for commercial pilot certification, while other airlines may set a higher bar of 1,000 or even 2,000.
The CEO of United, Scott Kirby, has done the math, and he says there won’t be enough pilots to go around for the next 5 years.
This is supported by official data. Over the past few years, the FAA has issued about 6,500 pilot licenses annually. One government report, however, predicts an annual deficit of almost 18,000 pilots over the next decade.
The planes that most pilots are required to fly also contribute to the current shortage. American Airlines recently grounded one hundred of its planes. The airline finally admitted that it did not have enough pilots to operate the planes.
However, these grounded planes are regional jets with only 50 seats, and operating them is no longer economically viable for the airline. Since the price of jet fuel has skyrocketed and pilot salaries have recently been raised, airlines need to fill their planes to nearly 100% capacity to make a profit.
Can you tell me what the airlines are doing to address the critical shortage of pilots?
United Airlines’ new flying school in Arizona, United Aviate Academy, began classes with its first students last year. The airline has plans to invest $100 million this year to build a second pilot training facility in Denver.
American Airlines claims it will hire 2,000 pilots in the next year, which is well short of the 5,000 pilots the company needs. Furthermore, American stated that they will be establishing a pilot scholarship fund of $1 million to aid two students annually in funding their education at the American Airlines Cadet Academy.
Recruiting more underrepresented pilots is the primary goal of this 10-year pledge. Each year, $50,000 will be granted to two qualified candidates to help defray these costs. In contrast, the average cost of a commercial pilot’s license is roughly $100,000.
How quickly can American Airlines ramp up the hiring of new pilots? insufficiently soon. An entire year is allotted for this course.
The shortage of pilots isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon, unfortunately.
Is COVID-19 in the role of the pilot shortage?
At the beginning of 2021, Oliver Wyman predicted that a severe shortage of pilots would emerge. Given the status of aviation, which had been nearly grounded the year prior due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this looked like an unbelievable prediction at the time.
However, the shortage of pilots became immediately apparent, beginning in North America, where the demand for air travel was highest in 2021 and 2022. Our most recent model, which is partially based on the Global Fleet & MRO Forecast 2022-2032, projects that the region will have a shortage of 8,000 pilots in 2022, which accounts for almost 11% of the total.
By the end of the decade, that chasm will widen to more than 29,000.
Until airlines are better prepared to absorb traffic with reduced flight schedules, passengers should plan for continuous near-term cancellations and delays, even if demand drops in the future and industry efforts to boost the supply of pilots are successful.
Such changes would be more reflective of the pilot personnel size but would very certainly result in further cutbacks in service to smaller cities.
The aging of the North American pilot workforce, as more and more baby boomers approach the age of retirement for commercial airline pilots, is just one of several factors contributing to the crisis.
Fewer deployments and the greater use of unmanned drones have also reduced the number of qualified military personnel available for civilian jobs. However, the regional impact of these patterns would have been far less immediate if not for the large number of pilots who decided to retire early during COVID.