Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Airlines Facing a Shortage of Pilots

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal reported that US airlines are facing the most serious threat of a serious pilot shortage since the 1960s.  Higher experience requirements for new employees is about to take hold as the industry is also bracing for a wave of retirements. Federal mandates that take effect next summer will require all newly hired pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of prior flight experience, that is six times the current federal minimum. Raising the cost and time to train new pilots in time when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already, have made the profession less attractive then it once was.

Meanwhile, thousands of senior pilots at major airlines will start hitting the mandatory retirement age of 65 soon. Another federal safety rule, which will give pilots more rest time is scheduled to take effect in early 2014. This change is expected to force passenger airlines to increase their pilot ranks by at least 5%. Adding to the problem is a small but steady stream of U.S. pilots moving to overseas carriers, many of which already face an acute shortage of aviators and pay handsomely to well-trained U.S. captains. Airlines for America, a trade group of the largest carriers that collectively employ 50,800 pilots now, cites a study by the University of North Dakota's aviation department that indicates major airlines will need to hire 60,000 pilots by 2025 to replace departures and cover expansion. All U.S. airlines, including cargo, charter and regional carriers together employ nearly 96,000 pilots, and will need to find more than 65,000 over the next eight years.

The biggest impact for passengers is expected to be with the smaller, regional carriers. They have traditionally been a training ground feeding pilots to the bigger airlines, but this trend is expected to change.

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