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US Airline Pilot Shortage  
User currently offlineIce Cream Man From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 127 posts, RR: 0
Posted (16 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 2105 times:

If things continue the way they are there will be a big airline pilot shortage soon. The militairy supply has dried up and that together with the continued economic growth has started to really make it harder for airlines to find people.

Not so much the majors perhaps (yet), but the smaller airlines and especially commuter airlines will find it increasingly hard, maybe even impossible, to find qualified personnell.

What to do about it ?

1. Start training people ab-initio, like they have done in Europe and Asia for ages (with good results), rather than insisting on thousands of hours ?

2. Hire foreign pilots. Canada, and especially Australia, still has many experienced pilots walking around doing nothing. Why not use that experience ? This would mean shelling out some greencards (for a change).

3. Hope things may never reach these shortage levels, ie stick you head in the sand and hope for an economic downturn ?

Let me know which one is the answer. Or perhaps you have a good idea of your own ?

3 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineDouglas Racer From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (16 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 2104 times:

I dont know about issuing greencards to foreigners. We have quite a few working at our airlines already. If I wanted to go to work for Air Canada though, could I? Nope. How about British Airways? Fraid' not.

No..I think we'd best keep this one IN the country. Commair Academy has started a zero-jet Ab-initio' program. First program of its kind in the US.

We'll be just fine.

User currently offlineDelta737 From United States of America, joined Jun 1999, 517 posts, RR: 10
Reply 2, posted (16 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 2108 times:

Whenever the phrase "pilot shortage" shows up in the newspapers, you really have to consider the source. Back in 1992, a company called FAPA (sold pilot career information) spouted off about an upcoming "pilot shortage" and sold lots of goods and services for peple wanting to become pilots. In fact, there had never been a "drier" time in aviation.

I don't believe in US Airlines engaging in European-style ab-initio training for the following reasons.

1. I taught ab initio students for Air India and Asiana Airlines when I was a flight instructor. I wholeheartedly believe there is no substitute for 1000's of hours of actual experience flying an airplane. Granted, a student could tell me a standard rate turn is exactly 21.5 degrees at 140 KIAS but that knowledge means little in the real world.

2. There is no lack of qualified pilots in the United States. For every 1000 retirements in the US, there are probably 3000 "current" and fully-qualified regional, ex-military and national guard pilots ready, willing, and able to fill those positions.

3. The pool of military pilots is cyclical and hasn't been a major source of airline pilots for years. I think something around 30 to 40% of any pilots in an average new-hire class are former military.

4. I don't care if you came from Embry-Riddle (as I did) or a crop-dusting school, there is absolutely no substitute for experience.

I don't believe in hiring foreign nationals for the airlines in the US for these reasons:

a. I can't go to the UK and fly for British Airways (or most other foreign carriers).

b. The FAA will honor CAA certificates, but the CAA won't always honor FAA certificates.

c. The idea of "outsourcing" comes to bear again. Why pay a US pilot $120,000/year when you could probably pay an Indian pilot 60,000 Rupee? Some airlines have flight attendants that are based in Europe and Asia and they aren't getting paid nearly what their US counterparts are.

Comments, complaints, etc are welcome!

Doug Taylor
Delta 737 Pilot
Airline Careers Website:

User currently offlineIce Cream Man From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 127 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (16 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 2106 times:

Thanks guys for replying. While both of you bring up interesting points, I think I should perhaps mention that this supposed future pilot shortage isn't a fabrication of some trigger happy newspaper but it was Flight International who published an article about it. Not to say that everything Flight says is true, but they do tend to get their facts and research right most of the time.

Of course, this shortage may or may not be with us in the near future. The consensus is that the majors will have relatively little problems getting the right people (for obvious reasons), it's the smaller airlines that will have the real problem. And a real problem it could be.....flights being cancelled and planes being flown by underqualified pilots.

I have been in this business long enough myself to be very sceptical of anybody saying there will be a pilot shortage, so I know where you're coming from Delta737.

Funny you should mention that you can't go to the UK to fly over there. In fact there is a major debate going on at the moment in the UK about, you guessed it, American pilots working for a UK company. Caledonian Airlines is currently hiring American flight crew to fly their A-320's (they couldn't find qualified people they claim; what they mean is that they couldn't find type rated people). So it is possible....but should it be ?

Another interesting fact, getting off the subject a bit, is that many American companies (ie FedEx, UPS etc) fly intra European services with American crews. Could you imagine, say, Lufthansa starting services between their new hub in, say, Indianapolis and several other American cities ?

So, no ab-initio and no foreign crews ? Better hope this pilot shortage doesn't hit, because if it does hit it is a bit late to start thinking about solutions.

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