Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Pilot Shortage Myth, Maybe Not

Captain Lee Moak, President of ALPA, International in an Opinion titled The Pilot Shortage Myth  in the September 8, 2014 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology argued that it is not a pilot shortage but a pay shortage. I agree with Captain Moak, that entry level pay for pilots at the lowest paying US airlines especially regionals is at the poverty level and this is driving young people from the profession among other factors. Airline management sometimes use the pilot shortage as an argument to roll back safety regulations (Pilot Fatigue and FO qualification and training rules) or cancel flights and curtail services.

I do not share the view that the shortage is a myth. It may be a myth today but it will be a reality in 15 to 20 years. US carriers are rolling over their older fleets and the capacity increases are derived more from larger aircraft than from fleet expansion, but that is now eventually the fleet will have to increase and so will pilot demand. The rapid expansion of airline fleets in Asia Pacific, MENA and Latin America, add to it the eventual recovery of European airlines and the industry will be looking at a global shortage.

As the fleet ages, so do pilots, in reality pilots aged 45 to 50 years now would be retired by then. Investment in human capital especially pilots, engineers and technicians is no longer a luxury it is a necessity for the survival of the industry. This has been a challenge a few years back (The New Challenges... Manpower and Training Oussama's Take 20 June 2011), still is and will be for a long time.  

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