- Boeing predicts the demand for pilots will grow to an "unprecedented" 790,000 over the next 20 years, according to the 2018 Pilot & Technician Outlook.
- In addition to the new pilots, Boeing projects 754,000 new maintenance technicians and 890,000 new cabin crew will be required to fly and maintain the world fleet. The Outlook covers commercial and business aviation, along with the civil helicopter industry.
- The study said an expected doubling of the global commercial airplane fleet, along with a tighter labor supply to meet the needs, will aggravate the current pilot shortage. To help temper the problem, Boeing called for an emphasis on developing and training the next generation of pilots.
When it comes to training, Boeing, for one, offers the Pilot Development Program — an accelerated training program that guides future pilots from early stage ab-initio (no experience) training through type rating as a first officer — to help operators meet their growing pilot needs.
But demand for pilots is reaching "unprecedented" levels.
Why? It’s a mix of fleet growth, retirements, training costs and attrition. Not to mention the growth of e-commerce and the desire for rapid, if not immediate, delivery.
According to an International Air Transport Association (IATA) press release, demand, measured in freight ton kilometers (FTKs), grew by 9% in 2017, double the previous year’s 3.6%. In fact, according to the IATA, demand for air freight grew at twice the pace of world trade expansion, based on global demand for manufacturing experts as companies moved to restock quickly.
In a separate market study, Business Environment Update, Boeing estimated that the global fleet will increase from 24,400 to 48,540 airplanes in 20 years. Interestingly, growth rates have been very high in emerging markets that have small pilot pools. That resulted in regional supply challenges and caused airlines to look outside of the local market for qualified pilots. Some regional airports may not survive, meaning goods will have to be flown into larger, neighboring airports, and then trucked to their destinations.
In addition, business aviation operators are seeing a significant increase in attrition rates, the Business Environment Update notes, because airlines are dangling higher salaries and more predictable work schedules to hire pilots away.
Pilot recruitment and training will be vital to meet the expected demand. According to Boeing, it takes two years for a trainee cadet to become a second officer, another year to reach first officer and another four years to become a captain. The burden of training costs, once covered by airlines, has shifted to the student. It can cost as much as $150,000 en route to becoming a first officer.