Airline pilot demand outlook

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Boeing has released its 2017 Pilot and Technician Outlook and projects a demand for more than 1.2 million pilots and technicians over the next 20 years, including 24 000 new pilots in Africa and 23 000 new technicians.

Boeing forecasts that between 2017 and 2036, the world’s commercial aviation industry will require approximately:
637,000 new commercial airline pilots
648,000 new commercial airline maintenance technicians
839,000 new cabin crew members

The 2017 outlook shows a slight increase of 3.2 percent for pilots over the 2016 outlook, and a slight decrease in the need for airline maintenance technicians (4.6 percent), primarily driven by the reduction in maintenance hours required on the new generation of airliners.

On June 20 CAE, the world largest commercial training company and provider of contract airlines pilots, released its first CAE Airline Pilot Demand Outlook. It provides a 10- years view on the future need for professional pilots in commercial aviation.

Its main finding is the massive surge, up to 255,000, in global pilots’ requirement over the decade. As the world economy grows, passenger air traffic follows. Passenger trips are increasing by 4.5% per year and are expected to reach 4.8 billion in 2027 from 3.2 billion currently. The size of the commercial aviation industry is expected to double over the next ten years, an assessment shared by Boeing and Airbus who foresee a multiplication by 2 of the number of active commercial aircraft in the same time period.

But “the pilot market is already under pressure,” according to Philippe Crébassa, deputy director of the French École Nationale de l’Aviation Civile (ENAC). Regional airlines have already cancelled flights or even closed due to the lack of pilots. This will have consequence on bigger companies, as new pilots usually serve several years in these airlines before moving to major ones. The current reservoir of pilots may dry up before new ones are trained.
255,000 new pilots are required, including 150,000 to sustain this growth and 105,000 to support retirements, according to CAE. There will be 440,000 active pilots in 2027. 180,000 fist officers also will have to develop into airline captains.
“The airline industry will need 70 new type-rated pilots per day for the next 10 years to meet global demand,” said Nick Leontidis, CAE Group President, Civil Aviation Training Solutions. As training a pilot is a long process (2 years for first officer, followed by 5 to 10 year to become captain, with added type qualification required for specific aircraft) and costly, this growth “will challenge current channels and programmes,” he added. The solutions reside in improvement of flight schools formation capacities and new systems like cockpit automations.

Last year the 20,000 new commercial pilots came from 3 sources. 4,000 were trained by airline-focused flight training academies. 4,000 came from universities, the military and business aviation. And 11,000 studied in small regional flight schools and flying clubs. The report predicts in increase of the market share for academies and a decline for the 2 other sources. Airlines will also be involved much earlier in the pilot creation process to ensure “right fit” with operational realities and early selection of future first officers and even captains.

Asia-Pacific is the fasted-growing region for air travel, with international airline service being extended to secondary and tertiary cities. It needs 90,000 new airlines pilots to sustain its growth. Hiring of experienced contract captains and fist officers is an acceptable short-term solution for airlines experiencing rapid growth until the development of their own dedicated cadet programmes, CAE said.

The Americas will require 85,000 new pilots, mostly concentrated in the United States, the world’s largest air travel market. The supply challenge is hampered by the oldest average pilot age in the world (48), which will lead to a large number of retirement in the coming years, and 2013 FAA regulations requiring up to 1,500 total flight hours to become a professional airline pilot, which left many co-pilots short of the required hours.

Europe is expecting slower traffic growth, due to political and economic uncertainties. 50,000 new pilots will be needed. Its pilot workforce is comparatively young and fast-growing low-cost airlines will need to rapidly have them acquire and master critical skills.



Middle East and Africa will require 30,000 new pilots over the next decade. The region employs many experienced expatriate pilots but local airlines have already established training academies to build “a local pool of pilot talent.” Growing population and economy should ensure a continued development of the region air travel market, CAE noted.