More affordable pilot training may help recruit new pilots
I was on the phone the other day, desperately trying to find someone to fly with me on a quick out and back when I glanced at the nightly news. The big headline for the night was the chaos that the pilot shortage was creating for the traveling public. The reporter interviewed weary passengers and showed status boards with lists of canceled flights. Though the reporter was trying to be optimistic, those who work on and in aircraft are not so hopeful. Pilot training is down significantly, and NBAA President Ed Bolan says bold action is required to staff the rapidly growing demand for flight crews adequately.
The pilot shortage was starting its chokehold on the industry years ago. Then the pandemic hit, and pilots retired early or took long leaves. Finally, it seemed like supply and demand were equalizing. Now, the race is on again.
On a global scale, the aviation industry needs about 100,000 new business pilots and almost 800,000 maintenance technicians over the next 15 years. That’s not counting airlines and regionals – when we consider those numbers, we’re talking about over a half million new pilots.
Aviation is a challenging career to break into; pilot training alone costs over $100,000, and starting pay while building time is dismal. Additionally, when you consider the actual job and the time spent away from home, it’s easy to see why the industry does not have employees champing at the bit to fill positions.
Aviation, a historically male-dominated industry, is perceived as especially difficult for women. Women make up only 5% of qualified pilots, and other under-represented minorities total just 10% of the entire pilot group. Something will have to change now that the global demand for air travel continues to increase.
There are several initiatives underway within the NBAA organization to increase interest in aviation as a career, including:
- Representation on the FAA/DOT’s Women in Aviation Advisory Board
- Representation on the Youth Access to American jobs in Aviation Task Force
- Partnerships with the Red Tail Flight Academy to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Young Professionals in Business Aviation (YoPro) program initiative
- Multiple career days across various age groups
The key to successfully filling pilot training classes is to find the sweet spot in attracting the next generation of aviation professionals and making it more affordable to train. It’s hard enough going to college these days; adding another $100K to the bill is a deal breaker for many aviation enthusiasts.