It seems like every time travel is mentioned nowadays, people are quick to point out the “pilot crisis.” Everyone seems to assume flying will become cost prohibitive in the next few decades thanks to statistics released by Boeing and Airbus that claim we’ll need over 600,000 new pilots by 2035. But, there’s more to these statistics than initially meet the eye. If you’ve ever dreamed of being a pilot, you may want to take advantage of the shortage, but is it worth it? Read on if you are clamoring for facts about the pilot shortage and if it’s worth enrolling in flight school amidst the deficit.
Is there even a true pilot shortage?
Yes, especially in certain areas. Right now, there are more aircraft to be piloted than we have pilots to fly those planes. With expanding economies and airline fleets growing like never before, there aren’t enough new pilots entering this profession to keep up with demand. But, that doesn’t mean that flights will start being canceled or being subjected to astronomical fare hikes. While there is a shortage globally, most of the demand is regional. Asia and North America are two affected areas. Asia is a region that’s growing exponentially in popularity but up until recently, severely lacked any kind of pilot recruitment. In Asia, becoming a pilot hasn’t been on the forefront of career choices. And in America, we’re running into a retirement and regulation problem. Pilots must retire at an age of 65 in the United States, so we are losing experienced pilots every year; but, new pilots hired as first officers must have a minimum of 1500 total flying hours as a pilot before getting behind the yoke as a paid employee. This is creating a gap of qualified pilots as older pilots are leaving the workforce, but with the newer pilots lacking the experience to pilot the plane on their own.
Why is there a shortage?
Honestly, being a pilot isn’t a glorified career path for young people anymore and there is a multitude of reasons why. One of the biggest deterrents to aspiring pilots is the cost of obtaining a pilot’s license. It can cost a lot of money out-of-pocket (and time) to become a pilot. The training is also often intense so there’s little chance of working on the side to support yourself while you’re in flight school. There’s also the unfortunate fact that regional pilots don’t get paid very well. Couple all of that with the fact that you have to have a minimum of 1500 flying hours before being hired on as a first officer and suddenly the idea of becoming a pilot isn’t as sexy anymore. So we have more pilots leaving the workforce due to retirement, pay inequality and understaffing issues than there are new pilots entering training. Since this was known years ago, plans should have been implemented to recruit new pilots back then. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, so now airlines and flight schools are scrambling to deal with a shortage that may get worse before it gets better.
Is now a good time to become a pilot?
If you’ve ever dreamed of entering a plane and turning left instead of right, there is no time like the present. Since there is this scarcity of qualified pilots right now, airlines are teaming up to make becoming a pilot a more affordable (and attainable) career dream. Flight training schools are providing training opportunities that are sponsored in part by the airline to make it easier for those that have the drive, but not the funds, to pursue piloting. The training is still intense and the hours required before becoming a first officer may still be daunting, but many pilots speak very highly of their career and claim they’d still keep flying even if they hit the lottery. In most areas and with most carriers, the pay is lucrative, as well and you get to travel to different parts of the world on a daily basis. With the shortage, many carriers are also offering large sign-on bonuses for new pilots which is an appealing incentive for those that have always wanted to pilot an aircraft but worried the pay wouldn’t be sufficient.