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Pilot Shortage Expected to Return

A new study on the supply of pilots states that the pre-pandemic shortage will return again in two years and be back “with a vengeance” in 2025.  Written by the consulting firm of Oliver Wyman, the report says the aviation industry could be experience a shortage of as many as 50,000 pilots worldwide in four years once we fully recover from the global pandemic.

North American operators are expected to experience the shortage first and feel it the hardest.

“In North America, with an aging pilot population and heavy use of early retirements, the shortage reemerges quickly and is projected to reach over 12,000 pilots by 2023—13 percent of total demand,” the report says.

By employing early retirement incentives to dislodge higher-priced senior pilots, the U.S. aviation industry has “created the perfect conditions for an acute shortage,” according to AVweb.

A high percentage of these pilots will not return to the industry, and many mid-career professionals who are tired of the cyclical nature of the business have moved on to other work.  When you factor in the high cost of training and reports of the insecure nature of the job, young people are discouraged from entering the industry.  Even banks that had recently started financing pilot training are having second thoughts about whether to continue.

The folks at Oliver Wyman say the looming shortage is one of the greatest threats to airline recovery, and they believe that air carriers must be proactive in attracting, retaining and training pilots – the sooner the better.

“How quickly airlines can regrow their operation will be guided by how quickly they can regrow their pilot ranks,” the study says.  “Those that take action now increase the agility of the airline to capture demand as it recovers.”