Why Pilot Schools Are Cutting The Number Of Aviation Students?

Since 2013 the new law was accepted that changed the requirements for pilots in the U.S. The rule states that co-pilots must hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate with 1,500 hours of flight time. It became a challenge for some. However, to have more pilots means to recruit more instructors in schools to train them. And for the past few years the number of instructors, pilots and future students is decreasing. What happened?

Military pilots and graduates who receive a qualification with bachelor diploma in aviation degree programs can receive the commercial license with less than 1,500 hours of training. Academic graduates have the possibility for certificate already after 1,000 hours. But the interesting fact is that before it was only 250 hours needed for a first officers position. This only affects the airlines in the U.S. but we still must be aware.

This can be a pro and a con. But the con we see is that in 2018 we have a deficit of instructors in flight schools. And airlines are not only seeking for pilots to recruit them now but also demanding flight schools to hire more instructors. They are needed for training the future airline captains and first officers. But as a result we now see those schools rejecting future aviation students and lowering the number of total applications due to the fact that there is not enough instructors to train them and to prepare them for a career in aviation.

The 1,500 hour rule

It all started with a crash that happened in 2009. The Colgan Flight 3407, that was operating as Continental Connection, crashed into a house. It killed all 49 passengers and crew members. Also, one innocent person on the ground who was passing by. After this accident the rule of 250 hour flight time was increased to 1,500. Now, after this rule was accepted, the number of the U.S. carriers that crashed decreased. And the future pilots in the U.S. airlines can be aware of the reason this law was created.

What are the main reasons?

There are many reasons what are keeping future pilots away from pursuing the career in aviation. Some of the factors are really challenging and concerning. To find out more specific details 20 pilot schools in the United States of America were asked about the reasons. The main one is that students are scared of the tuition fee for aviation degree programs.


Second and one of the main reasons why there are not enough future pilots is that schools can't invest resources for recruiting more instructors and for maintaining their professional abilities and skills. Every schools creates the budget that can be used for training the instructors. But if the school has a number that can't be increased it means it can be used for trainings with quality. And if there will be more instructors, the quality of those trainings might not be that good. Because the budget is the same.

Another reason the schools have challenging difficulties with is the cost and maintenance of an aircraft.

Bridgewater State University professor Michael Farley said that, for example, for his program the applications are up and he compares it with the last 18 years. But in the department of aviation the number of instructors is low so due to this Farley must cut the number of students.

Before and now

None of us can notice but the problem why the number of students in aviation is decreasing is deep inside of the school's structure. Many courses, for example, aviation law and meteorology are taught by academics. And the flight instructors are mostly experienced graduates who are trying to expand their flight hours before starting a career in aviation company and flying big jets.

Since 2013, in the U.S. students need to have between 1,000-1,500 hours if they want to be qualified for passenger airline. But that depends also from the requirements of an airline. But the main question here is how to get those hours if you are still a student? The best thing is to work at aviation school as a flight instructor.

If everything works, the ideal plan for students looks like this: working as a flight instructor in aviation school, then working in a regional airline as a co-pilot and later as pilot. When everything is achieved - starting to work in a major airline company as a first officer and captain.

The competition

In the 2017 the major airlines in the U.S. hired more than 5,000 pilots. And the number is increasing. But also it depends from the job market and salaries. That means if there are no resources for the instructors, there will be no resources also for teaching students. And if the number of pilot students will be low, the airlines will suffer. One of the options airlines look at is offering more benefits and higher salaries.

But it still needs to be understood that flight school instructors are mostly students who dreamed about flying commercial airplanes with passengers on board and looking after their peers was not their main intention.

When they start studying they are focused on becoming the best of themselves and also to become qualified pilots. They already decided to pursue their career in aviation and the motivation leads them forward.

Then the schools compete for the instructors and the airlines compete for the pilots.

What's now?

Best solution for flight schools is to partner up with regional airlines and create partnerships.

It is still a challenge but other solution is to hire more pilots who are already retired or the ones who can't meet the medical restrictions. Overall, some of them really want to become pilots but also dream about spending the nights in their bed with a loved one, seeing the family every day and coming back home before dinner.

All in all, everything can be solved. We only need to focus on the reasons why the problems emerge and to solve them. It is always better to work when there is a plan how to.

Want to become a flight instructor? The video below shows how the day of a flight instructor in France, Europe looks like.