Pilot and Engineer Shortage – Fact or Fiction?

The aviation industry is famous for its booms and busts. Generally, airline travel is a function of the economy, be it travel for commercial reasons to manage business or perhaps to take a faraway vacation. The economy further extends to numerous industries such as the resource sector that dictates the use of helicopters (or not) in a variety of work from Oil & Gas, Forestry, Mining, Hydro to SAR/EMS.

The pundits have forecasted for years that there will be a shortage of aircrews (pilots and engineers) in particular to the infamous Baby Boomer generation of workers (born between 1946 and 1964). Arguably, years ago at the start of their aviation careers, these boomers flocked to this industry as aviators and engineers for military or commercial operators. Now they are retiring.

While the first Baby Boomer turned 65 in 2011, the medium Boomer will turn 65 in 2020 and the last ones in 2029. Perhaps this bubble has also been weakened or delayed by new ICAO ruling (August 2006) that increased the maximum age for certain pilots in international operations to 65. This was followed in 2007 in the US by the Fair Treatment of Experienced Pilots Act increasing the age to 65.

But the problem still stands that there may be a real risk to addressing current and future needs for aircrews in the aviation sector. This may in fact already be an issue in the growth of this vocation as a career, the ability to fund the education/training it or to recruit candidates.

Some challenges are:

  • Decline in the entrance of new pilots (Helicopter or Fixed Wing) due to this work not being popular, away from home requirement and the salary comparison to other jobs.
  • Excessive cost for training with the burden of debt that could be $75K coupled by the high competition for limited sponsorships or apprenticeships.
  • Reduction of the typical supply chain in the Military or Coast Guard pilots and engineers available which routinely filled the cockpits of Regional and Mainline Airlines or Offshore Helicopter Operators.
  • And the new budget term of sequestration that is a debt and funding reduction tool (USA) which has limited the size of military fleets and the need for pilots and engineers.
  • The perceived risk in the Oil & Gas Industry is somewhat similar from highly skilled positions at the scientific level to critical trades (licensed) that are required in oil field construction (camp, pipeline and infrastructure). Immigration has been a popular strategy to entice workers and their families to fil needed positions.

Aviation applications include:

Sponsorships – Increase financial support at trade schools and flying academy
Career Fairs – Increased workshops at trade show, seminars or job fairs to increase the aviation profile
Cadet Program – Recruitment to advanced training (IFR/ATPL) to guaranteed senior jobs
Aviation Schools – Strategic collaboration with established aviation schools to groom future employees
Military – Early recruitment in various military organizations
Aviation Jobs – Recruitment of pilot/mechanic interns

Perhaps this may be the time to address the mythical problem of shortages in aircrews. And perhaps there is also a notion to rethink our business models.

For additional information
Contact Michael Nagel @ +1 604 616 2662
[email protected]