For those of us on the ground it can be difficult to comprehend the sheer amount of flights that are taking place at any one time. From commercial airlines to private jets, tens of thousands of flights take off globally every single day.
Which means there are a lot of pilots. Pilots licenses are not exactly easy to come by. They require a high level of expert training. Even then, hundreds of hours of flight are still needed before a pilot can be hired to fly commercially. Due to the financial pressure, not to mention the time commitment, many are turning away from the dream of becoming a pilot.
Are pilots in high demand?
In most parts of the world, pilots are in high demand. Airlines are in a constant state of expansion, with the number of flights taking off around the world increasing all the time. With air travel becoming more affordable to greater numbers of people, airlines have had to increase to match.
The more flights that take off, the more pilots that are needed. Companies estimate that within the next decade tens of thousands of new pilots may be required.
However, the industry remains in flux. Since 2001 air travel has suffered several major setbacks. From the initial flight panic in the wake of 9/11, to the financial crash of 2008, to the COVID-19 crisis.
The demand of pilots has to match the demand of people wanting to fly. When there are fewer planes taking off, there’s a much smaller demand for pilots. So while the travel industry is always expanding, short term problems have led to the job of a pilot not possessing the security it once did.
Is there a shortage of pilots?
There is a shortage of pilots, and there’s expected to be a shortage of pilots moving forward. As air travel becomes more accessible, more people are flying. As commercial flights need a pilot and a co-pilot, that’s two pilots per plane. Companies who wish to expand their travel business are required to hire more pilots.
Currently, the level of pilots training is not matching the level of demand. Not enough younger pilots are moving forward. Meanwhile, more and more pilots edge closer to retirement age. Alongside this, the number of flights taking off continues to increase.
Why is there a pilot shortage?
The pilot shortage is caused by a number of factors, most notably the cost required to become a pilot. Flight school is prohibitively expensive for many, and as it’s often considered a trade school the loans available are reduced.
Furthermore, in order to be hired as a pilot you need to have a certain number of hours in the air completed. For newcomers to the industry, this is expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to do.
Especially as rules have also been introduced to reduce the number of hours a pilot can spend in the air (to prevent fatigue). While safety measures are incredibly important, for those looking to break into the industry this is a massive obstacle.
In addition to all that, the salaries are getting lower. Where in the past pilots were highly paid, with the introduction of low budget airlines, salaries have decreased. Many don’t see it as worth paying for the huge upfront costs of training to then not be compensated well. Piloting an aircraft is no longer seen as the glamorous job it once was.
This all leads to an aging workforce. Pilots are getting older, with 50% of current licensed pilots expected to retire within the next 20 years. In the long term this means the pilot shortage problem will only continue to worsen. Especially as more people look to travel.
Is it hard to get a job as a pilot?
Despite the pilot shortage, it can still be hard to get a job as a pilot. Airlines look for experience, so are less likely to hire recent graduates. This ends up in a catch-22 situation. The airlines won’t hire pilots without experience, but pilots can’t get experience without being hired.
Many airlines are looking towards expanding their training program. This means that pilots will be trained with the help and funding of an airline. As an end result, the pilots will have a job as soon as they graduate.
However, other measures are being taken to reduce the need. Some airlines are looking to start flights with only one pilot. The retirement age of pilots is also up for debate, with some airlines wanting to increase the age.
As an industry, airlines are subject to multiple outside forces. Financial hardships, problems with weather, and fears for air travel have all previously reduced the number of flights taking off. When this happens, the demand for pilots lessens along with it.