Tag Archives: pilot shortage

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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TODAY’S BIG JETS ARE EXTREMELY SAFE

The above viewed aircraft is a stretched “stretch 727” or 727-200. It remains in the heart and souls of many of the older flight crews whose nostalgic strings are often tweaked by this airplane. It is the keynote player in today’s aviation theme: TODAY’S BIG JETS ARE EXTREMELY SAFE! The following information regarding the safety record for commercial air carriers is extracted from an article written by Daniel Michaels and Andy Pasztor and appeared in the December 28, 2011 newsletter published by Curt Lewis and Associates:

The major accident rate in North America, for example, has remained flat at about one in 10 million flights.”

“This year is on course to be the safest ever for commercial aviation, with only
one passenger death for every 7.1 million people carried world-wide.”

“Most of the aviation fatalities in 2011 occurred in Russia, Iran and African countries that have long faced air-safety problems, such as Angola and Congo.”

“With only days left, 2011 appears set to eclipse the postwar record low rate of
passenger fatalities, set in 2004 at one per 6.4 million passengers, according to
Ascend, a consulting firm in London.”

“This year is on course to be the safest ever for commercial aviation, with
roughly one passenger death for every 7.1 million air travelers worldwide.”

Yesterday I commented on what an onerous experience one can encounter as an airline passenger. I now want to point out to all of those folks that harbor even a tidbit of trepidation about getting on the “big jet” to maintain the awareness that there is no safer mode of transportation than the U.S. air carriers. A caveat is as follows: the accident rate in recent years in the smaller jets and turboprop aircraft is much higher than the “big jets.” Although there is a very slightly higher chance of an accident or an incident on the regional airline you still remain hyper-safe compared to travel with a Russian, African, or Indian carrier. Standing applause should be issued to the pilots, air traffic controllers, flight training departments and last, but perhaps most important, the efforts of the many dedicated FAA overseers.

The safety of commercial aviation is verified by the passengers speaking loudly with their wallets and shelling out to get that middle seat (between the two large people). Enjoy it while you still can; we are running out of pilots and running out of fossil fuel is not far behind.