IMPENDING PILOT SHORTAGE: MYTH OR REALITY?


Pilot shortage A PILOTLESS AIRPLANEimage017

For several decades young aspiring professional pilots have been tantalized by the aviation oracles, as they were continually told that a pilot shortage is just around the corner. Once again, the impending pilot shortage discussion is intensifying. This time it could be for real. However, the next question is: are the young potential aviators listening or do they care? After a couple decades or more of pilot pay and benefits diminishing while training cost increased, far fewer young people are electing to commit to a career as a professional pilot.
Spending up to $200,000 for the required aviation credentials to be hired by an airline for a starting salary of $22,000 a year is not very enticing. Worse yet, the rookie pilot might be condemned to a job as a banner tow pilot, a pipeline surveillance pilot, or perhaps become caught in the ugly web of being a night freight pilot (often referred to as a “freight dog”). The lifestyle of a freight dog can be researched by reading, The Rogue Aviator; (http://www.therogueaviator.com/). While the brass ring is still there on the horizon it will only be grabbed by the more fortunate few. For every professional pilot making $200,000 a year, there are 10 professional pilots making less than $60,000 per year.
After the horrific crash of Continental flight 3407 operated by Colgan air in Buffalo, New York, a congressional subcommittee on aviation safety was immediately implemented. Everyone’s favorite pilot, Sully Sullenberger was in attendance. When asked what needed to be done to enhance commercial airline safety, Captain Sully of Hudson River fame, pulled no punches. He stated unequivocally that paying the pilots an honest salary was a critical element towards the long-term safety factor. Four years later, entry-level pilot salaries, and all too often salaries of more experienced pilots, remain embarrassingly low. “This too, shall pass.”
Now to the good news! This upcoming pilot shortage is for real. In August of this year, the FAA has mandated, with a few caveats, that airline pilots must have a minimum of 1500 hours total time and an Airline Transport Pilot rating to work for a FAR 121 (airline parameters) aviation company. Currently, the minimum requirement is 250 hours. On January 14, 2014 the long-overdue revised duty and flight time limitations for commercial pilots will take effect. The more restrictive limitations will require the airlines to hire more pilots.
The equally critical factor in this equation is that the inordinate number of airline pilots that will be forced into retirement by the age 65 rule, will open many doors for new hire pilots. Furthermore, corporate aviation is booming and those jobs with companies such as NetJets, Marquis Jet, etc. are becoming quite desirable for the professional pilot. Overseas pilot jobs, particularly in China, will be extremely plentiful. The pilot shortage will drive salaries skyward. Everything is cyclical and this current down cycle for the pilot community is destined to improve significantly. I will also state—after a 36 year aviation career that took me to 44 countries with 25 employer changes—that an aviation career can be an exciting Odyssey. Take your pilot passion and create for yourself an adventuresome career.

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9 responses to “IMPENDING PILOT SHORTAGE: MYTH OR REALITY?

  1. I agree with everything you state and I think that in 15 years, there will in fact be a shortage. In the near term, next five years, I don’t think there is a shortage but I think it is being abused by those nearing retirement age in an effort to have the legal age raised again. I am cynical, my apologies.

    The entry wages must be raised. It is essentially slave labor and it is wrong. Probation pay at a major airline is a bogus concept. The company gets eight to ten months of free labor by holding onto this legacy.

    • Shortly after the Continental flight 3407 (Colgan Air) accident in Buffalo . There was a congressional subcommittee on aviation safety that was convened. Sully Sullenberger was in attendance and when he was asked what must be done to provide a safer commercial aviation environment. He stated very simply: “We must increase the pilot salaries to a livable wage.” Unfortunately, that sage advice has still not been heeded.
      You may well be right regarding the timeframe of the next pilot shortage. However, many of the numbers are very quantifiable and the many legacy airline pilot retirements will most certainly occur. Thanks very much for your feedback
      Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbott

    • Hello Mr. RoBaker.
      No need to apologize for being cynical about the aviation industry. I talked to United Airlines captain three days ago and he informed me how much he and his colleagues lost when UAL did their Chapter 11 maneuver several years ago. I have trouble feeling sorry for a United Airlines pilot, but the management did beat the hell out of them.
      My radical and tumultuous aviation career kept me in poverty, but I would not have traded the experience for anything. I was pretty lucky, in that my roller coaster ride career was filled with exciting adventures. Despite the current situation with all too many underpaid pilots I think I would still pursue a career in aviation based on the same parameters In my first job as a civilian Learjet copilot my salary was $700 a month.
      I wish you well in all your aviation endeavors.
      Allen Morris/a.k.a. Ace Abbott

  2. All that awareness is excellent.
    We know about passionate pilots – they will not be daunted!

    • Hello MLB,
      Thank you very much for your very relevant feedback. A passionate pilot will not be daunted.
      Ace Abbott

  3. We’ll know that the fabled “pilot shortage” has finally arrived when there are no pilots willing to accept a job that pays $22,000 per year (or less, at many regional airlines).

    When there is a shortage of engineers, you don’t see engineers accepting jobs that pay $22,000/year. When there is a shortage of nurses, you don’t see nurses accepting jobs that pay $22K. When there is a shortage of accountants, you don’t see accountants accepting $22K.

    As long as there are pilots who are willing to accept ridiculously low wages,……there is no “pilot shortage”.

    • Hello Bob,
      I agree with your basic premise. I remember 40 years ago, young and inexperienced pilots would function as a Learjet copilot for no pay. The experience pilots that had a check ride would get $50 a day.
      I am not at the airport that much in my retirement phase, but I keep my ear to the ground and I believe that young pilots are still selling their soul to build time in order to be more competitive in the workplace.
      I am hopeful and I am hopeful that you will also be hopeful that the good times are coming for the young entry-level pilots. Based on normal supply and demand, the less than poverty level airline pay will soon be a thing of the past.
      Allen Morris/a.k.a. Ace Abbott

  4. The only people who are bent upon convincing youngsters that a pilot shortage is about to come are airlines managements and flight schools. This way they have a steady stream of people willing to spend thousands of dollars on pilot training and then willing to work for peanuts in the dim hope that some day they will earn well. So many lives have been destroyed due to these disinformation campaigns about pilot shortage. There has been no pilot shortage in the past 40 years and there will be none at least in the next 10 years.

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