Do we have a severe Pilot shortage on the horizon?

On Thursday Nov.15th, the Diane Rehm show, a radio program on NPR, produced by Washington’s own WAMU had a very interesting discussion. The topic in question was the impact of the strict new regulations being adopted by airlines after the Colgan Air flight 3407 crash. While the changes were needed – that fatal air crash was the result of pilot error – some experts are arguing that the requirements are too strict and will result in a pilot shortage in the near future. You can find a transcript on the entire show on the Diane Rehm show website. Here are some key points I caught as I listened to a part of the program (In full disclosure, I was unable to listen to the entire show):

  • The allure of the airline pilot career has faded somewhat
  • Pilots, especially new pilots for regional carriers are not paid enough. A $18,000 starting salary is not at all commiserate with the cost of getting trained as a pilot and with the responsibility that goes with being one
  • Pilots are in a global marketplace. Airlines overseas are paying much better salaries than US based airlines, attracting many of our pilots
  • Another reason pilots are going to overseas airlines is due to the financial state of the US based airlines
  • Some of the requirements – such as hours flown – to get a pilots license are very arbitrary
  • The number of pilots retiring in the coming years far outpaces the number of new pilots coming into the market

What do you think? I am not an expert when it comes to flying; I am just a passenger who wants to be safe when flying. Share your comments below – please point out if you are a pilot or in the aviation or airline industry.

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  1. A commercial pilots license requires 250 hours. Most regional carriers like Skywest don’t hire pilots with less than 1,000 hours. Getting a commercial license can cost upwards of $50,000 and then there is no guarantee of a job. Most new commercial pilots build hours by becoming a flight instructor, but that doesn’t pay particularly well either. It is a long hard road to get there, but most of the people who go into aviation as a career don’t do it for the money, but rather because they love to fly. I got my private pilots license in 2009 with the hopes of someday getting my commercial as well. Long story short, I had a kid and ran out of time and money, but look forward to someday getting back into it.

  2. There is a looming pilot and mechanics shortage worldwide for several reasons:
    -There is a large number of pilots who will retire in the coming few years;
    -The airlines did not invest in flight crew ab initio training because they relied on pilots coming from the armed services but those downsized so the potential numbers are far less;
    -The airlines as usual are very short sighted paying a regional pilot $18K is ridiculous a bus driver gets more than that and their violent reaction to the new new training and flight duty time rules are because they go on the cheap;
    -The industry as a whole has lost its ability to attract the younger generation, we have failed to fire up their imagination all they see are lay offs, long working hours in adverse conditions, litigation for every minor infraction and finally a reduction in the space program

    The industry has not invested long term in anything, we must be the only industry that reacts and never acts unless we are pushed to and we do it kicking and screaming.

  3. It looks like planes will be piloted remotely from the ground by some kid who got experience with a joystick and an X-Box.

    I can’t wait for teleportation.

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