Airline Industry is Facing a Massive Shortage of Pilots

The worldwide commercial aviation industry will need an extra 255,000 pilots by 2027 to sustain its rapid growth and it is not moving fast enough to fill the positions, according to a 10-year forecast published by training company CAE Inc (CAE.TO).

More than half of the required pilots have not yet begun training, the report adds, storing up potential problems as the industry braces for an increase in passenger air traffic that is expected to double the size of the commercial air transport industry in the next 20 years. In all, airlines must add 105,000 pilots to replace those retiring, and 150,000 new pilots just to make up for growth in passenger demand.

To put the global pilot shortage into perspective, Nick Leontidis, CAE Group President, Civil Aviation Training Solutions, estimates that the airline industry will need to add 70 new type-rated pilots per day over the next 10 years.

If airlines fail to meet their goals of adding more pilots, CAE suggests it could result in less growth, which would hinder airlines’ ability to offer more routes in the future.

Shortage of pilots

“This record demand will challenge current pilot-recruitment channels and development programs. In turn, new and innovative career pathways and training systems will be required to meet the industry’s crewing needs and ever-evolving safety standards,” the report says.

"The shortage of pilots is a problem today. There's demand today, so people need to start building a strategy with us or other professional academies to be able to build that pipeline," Nick Leontidis told journalists at the Paris Airshow on Tuesday.

The report claims that North America has a high percentage of older pilots as recruitment activity in the 1980s and 1990s tailed off when network carriers merged and consolidated.

CAE noted that U.S. regional airlines already face pilot supply issues after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introduced stiffer regulations requiring up to 1,500 total flight hours to become a professional airline pilot.

The situation in the Asia-Pacific region appears to be even more extreme.