NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Airlines Face Acute Shortage of Pilots

November 19, 2012

U.S. airlines are facing what threatens to be the most serious pilot shortage since the 1960s, with higher experience requirements for new hires about to take hold just as the industry braces for a wave of retirements, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • One study indicates that major airlines need to hire 60,000 pilots by 2025 to cover expansion and replace departures.
  • New requirements set forth by the federal government are forcing new hires to have at least 1,500 hours of prior flight experience, a six fold increase compared to the previous requirement.
  • To mitigate the impact, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a rule that would lower the requirement to 750 hours for military aviators and 1,000 hours for graduates of four-year aviation universities.
  • However, FAA data shows that annual private and commercial pilot certificates -- both required to become a pilot -- are down 41 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

Smaller planes, on-demand charters and business jets aren't covered by the new requirement.

As a result of this new regulation, airlines are faced with higher costs and time to train pilots. This problem is compounded by the fact that there are pay cuts and longer hours, which make becoming a pilot a less attractive career option.

On top of that, airline carriers, especially regional ones, are having a difficult time recruiting new pilots because of high costs for fuel and an unsteady demand. As a result, small and midsize communities are likely to cut the number of flights.

Some critics point out that the shortage will likely result in lower safety standards as smaller airlines turn to lower internal criteria to hire lower-skilled applicants.

Another regulation that is expected to take effect in early 2014 will be to give pilots more daily rest time. This is likely to cause airlines to scale back even more since the fewer pilots will be available to fly.

Source: "Airlines Face Acute Shortage of Pilots," Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2012.


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