Airlines brace for shortage of pilots
Airlines are preparing for a major shortage of pilots and are trying to hire more of them to meet the demands of the next decade.
The airline industry is looking to hire 65,000 pilots by 2012 — including 12,000 this year — but is fighting a slew of retirements, a dearth of new recruits and competition from overseas carriers and the U.S. military.
Commercial air travel has grown 8 percent in the past five years, from 683 million passengers per year in 2001 to 740 million in 2006, and the Federal Aviation Administration expects that number to jump to 1.2 billion passengers by 2020.
The industry is concerned thatthere will be a void left when the current group of pilots is forced into mandatory retirement at age 60.
To buy the industry time, the FAA is working to change its retirement policy to allow one of two pilots in a crew to fly up to the age of 65.
“Studies [have shown that] the population is healthier, older and what were [safety] concerns a long time ago really aren’t concerns today,” FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told The Washington Times recently.
Researchers estimate that 3,800 pilots could be added to the national supply if the retirement age were raised to 65.
But the airline industry may have bigger concerns, as many of the United States‘ current pilots are being wooed by foreign airlines.
“There is a worldwide shortage looming,” Mr. Elwell said. “We’re already seeing it in other countries. Japan can’t get pilots fast enough; [neither can] carriers in the Middle East, so they are hiring American pilots.”
After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, many of the 10,000 pilots who were furloughed opted to take early-retirement packages, changed professions or sought jobs with international carriers.
“So just as the domestic demand for experienced pilots is rising, foreign airlines are poaching our pilots,” Mr. Darby said. “And they are doing a pretty good job.”
“This is a global industry,” said Steve Lott, a spokesman from the International Air Transportation Association, a trade association in Montreal. “And the neat thing about flying commercially is that you can take that skill anywhere in the world.”