After Covid-19, Aviation Faces A Pilot Shortage

For the past few years, securing a pipeline of new pilots has been a primary concern for airlines around the world. In a 2019 Oliver Wyman poll of flight operations leaders, 62 percent listed a shortage of qualified pilots as a key risk. The root cause of the coming shortage varies by region: In the United States, it is an aging workforce facing mandatory retirement, fewer pilots exiting the military, and barriers to entry, including the cost of training. In China and other regions where a burgeoning middle class is demanding air travel, the struggle is to expand capacity fast enough.

The impact also depends on the class of carrier, with 83 percent of regional carriers finding it challenging to recruit talent compared with 22 percent of low-cost carriers. Despite these differences, there were few regions in the world that were not dealing with how to secure enough pilots to fuel future growth.

Nearly overnight, with the outbreak of COVID-19, the conversation shifted from shortage to surplus. For carriers that were struggling with pilot supply, this has provided a momentary reprieve. It will not last, and decisions taken today to survive the coronavirus pandemic may threaten the ability of airlines in some regions to recover and grow in the future.

The return of demand

A major question facing the aviation industry is when demand will return. For passenger recovery, estimates range from early 2022 to 2024 and beyond. For pilots, however, demand is driven by aircraft departures and utilization rather than passengers. The global in-service fleet has already recovered in size to 76 percent of pre-COVID levels. In China, where the outbreak was earlier and better controlled, the in-service fleet is already at 99 percent. While utilization and resulting block hours still lag historic levels globally, we expect the demand for pilots to proceed the recovery of passenger growth by two to three quarters.

In recent years, airlines have provided a more direct path to the cockpit for new pilots, expanding cadet training programs and providing financing. With COVID, many of the airline pipeline levers have come under pressure. Faced with mounting costs and a pilot surplus, cadet programs are being trimmed. Some of the banks that have supported the financing are reconsidering the risk profile of a new pilot cadet. Finally, the attraction of a stable and lucrative career path now looks much less secure.

These trends have created a supply shock. Pilot candidates will think twice about entering such a cyclical industry. Many furloughed pilots will return, but some may pursue other opportunities. Finally, airlines in some regions have relied heavily on early retirements to reduce costs, which will permanently decrease the supply. Looking at past crises such as 9/11 and the global financial crisis, new pilot certifications fell 30 to 40 percent during the five years after the initial shock. With the global nature of this shock, we believe 25,000 to 35,000 current and future pilots may choose alternative career paths over the next decade.

Emergence of the pilot shortage

The most important question is not whether a pilot shortage will reemerge, but when it will occur and how large the gap will be between supply and demand. Based on a modest recovery scenario, we believe a global pilot shortage will emerge in certain regions no later than 2023 and most probably before. However, with a more rapid recovery and greater supply shocks, this could be felt as early as late this year. Regarding magnitude, in our most likely scenarios, there is a global gap of 34,000 pilots by 2025. This could be as high as 50,000 in the most extreme scenarios. Eventually, the impact of furloughs, retirements, and defections will create very real challenges for even some of the biggest carriers. One cushion airline have created consists of 100,000 pilots still on payroll but flying reduced schedules or on voluntary company leave. In the US, such programs have been very popular and will provide the airline some flexibility once the industry begins to recover.

Perhaps more important than the global view are the regional projections. Recovery is not expected to be uniform across the globe and each region has its own demographic considerations. In our analysis, North American, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East are likely to see the largest shortages while Europe, Africa, and Latin America remain closer to equilibrium. In North America, with an aging pilot population and heavy use of early retirements, the shortage reemerges quickly and is projected to reach over 12,000 pilots by 2023 — 13 percent of total demand. However, Asia Pacific, with a faster growth trajectory will surpass this by the end of the decade with a projected shortage of 23,000 pilots by 2029. This can have real implications on the timing and depth of regional shortages as pilots migrate to areas of opportunity, potentially accelerating or deepening shortages in other regions.

In Europe, the supply and demand of pilots are expected to be balanced over the next three to four years. A few European airlines even suspended training and recommended to pilots in training that they abandon the profession altogether. Our view is not so radical since these very candidates will be necessary in the longer term in Europe and could provide valuable service elsewhere across the globe, particularly in Asia.

What airlines can do?

For airlines who are currently struggling to right size the operation and remain solvent, the idea of a pilot shortage is far from top of mind. However, it has the real potential to limit their ability to regrow and rebuild their operation in the coming years. There are three main areas where airlines can help to reduce the impact of future pilot shortages:

  1. Reduce pilot demand: Take the opportunity to rethink crew operations and improve crew productivity, thereby reducing the total pilots required, while driving down costs in the process

  2. Reinforce the pipeline: Continue to invest in training programs and pilot recruitment, including resolving emerging financing challenges!

  3. Engage the workforce: Recognize the likelihood of increased competition, particularly for furloughed pilots, and actively engage to improve retention.

How quickly airlines can regrow their operation will be guided by how quickly they can regrow their pilot ranks. Those that act now increase the agility of the airline to capture demand as it recovers.

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Unfortunately, there is an abundance of evidence showing an inadequate lack of skills proficiency in today’s pilots.
Pilots are not exercising the same duties all the time and are hardly flying the same procedures, as for example IFR recurrency, it is a significant problem in the air transport industry. Simpilot monitors your flight proficiency progress by making available the use of FAA approved flight simulators. Any time that a particular endorsement check or recurrent proficiency deadline is approaching, our MFP program will begin to send you reminders by text and/or email to fulfill that requirement.

Job placement Program

Job Placement is a free service that Simpilot offers to its pilot members to find employment. Simpilot works with several large and small domestic, international airlines, and aviation companies, for whom they screen and place pilots for both temporary and permanent positions. This type of assistance usually includes a combination of career counseling and skills assessment, along with guidance on writing a resume, drafting a cover letter, and filling out a job application. After that step is completed, then we can help the pilots to find appropriate available positions and prepare them for their interviews.

Building Flight Time Assistance Program

Building flight time is important, especially if you are working towards a career as a professional pilot. There are few creative ideas that will help you build flight time hours: becoming a Flight Instructor, volunteering for a charitable cause or train for a new endorsement or rating, and becoming a member of the “Simpilot Flying Club”, which is an organization developed with aircraft owners in mind, who hardly ever fly their airplanes and are willing to rent them at a low cost, being this option the one that saves you more time and money. We created this program in response to the recent increase of the flight time experience requirements needed to obtain your airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.

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To keep pilots safe while flying, “safety always comes first“.
Aviation welfare is especially important because there are lives involved in every operation of the aircraft. Safety must be the number one priority for every pilot in all aspects of their flight. We at
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Personalize Guidance and Orientation

Our Pilot Orientation Plan has been designed to be simple and affordable for future students who would take the first steps towards acquiring their Private Pilot License, on their way to becoming Commercial Pilots. Simpilot’s new method of flight training using simulation, gathers all the necessary and important factors that simplify while at the same time accelerate the learning and assimilation process that will be incorporated later in real life situations.

 

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By being a member of Simpilot, we are dedicated to keep your flight training safer, smarter, and in good standings with all the aspects of becoming a well verse mindful pilot; even though, the actual flight training is provided in partnership with our flight school associates. We have ensured the efficiency of your flight training experience, by providing a high-quality professional learning environment. We can provide the tools for success, by monitoring the academic progress of our students. The first and most important tool is motivation, the second is dedication, and the third is willingness to achieve your future goals.

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