Airlines face pilot shortage
Industry experts have warned for years about a looming shortage of truck drivers in the U.S. freight transportation industry.
Less publicized is the potential for airlines to not have enough pilots to fly their planes.
William Flynn, chief executive officer and president of Atlas Air Worldwide, said fewer new pilots going through aviation training universities, existing pilots who reach the mandatory U.S. retirement age of 65, and higher safety standards — such as more flying hours before someone can get in the cockpit of a commercial plane — will combine to reduce the available pool of qualified pilots.
Atlas Air Worldwide owns two large all-cargo airlines, Atlas Air and Polar Air Cargo.
At the recent Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ annual conference in Atlanta, he predicted the U.S. aviation industry would face a pilot shortage within three years.
U.S. airlines also face competition for American pilots from Middle Eastern airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, as well as Japanese, Chinese and African airlines that hire pilots on a global basis, irrespective of nationality, he said.
Boeing projects a need for 460,000 new pilots by 2031, including 70,000 in North America. It says increasing reliance on digital training technologies and flight instructors with cross-cultural and cross-generational skills will be necessary to meet the learning requirements of a new generation.
According to Boeing’s 2012 workforce outlook, there already is a pilot shortage in many parts of the world as airlines expand their fleets and flight schedules to met demand in emerging markets. Asia, in particular, is experiencing delays and operational interruptions due to pilot scheduling constraints.
The Asia-Pacific region will need almost 186,000 new pilots by 2031, the aircraft maker said.
Boeing also estimates the aviation industry will need 601,000 new maintenance technicians in 20 years.
“Our fundamental strategy is to be the employer of choice in that competition,” Flynn said.
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