* The world’s airlines need to train 70 new pilots a day over the next 10 years to meet growing demand, CAE study says
* Pilots are aging and the profession has lost its appeal, leaving airlines to scramble to find the 255,000 new bodies needed
A new report released Tuesday by CAE, a Montreal-based aviation training company, says about 255,000 pilots must enter the global commercial aviation profession in the next 10 years in order to meet growing passenger demand and replace retiring pilots.
According to the CAE’s Airline Pilot Demand Outlook, rapid airline fleet expansion and substantial passenger growth combined with high pilot retirement rates means that airlines will need to train 70 new pilots per day to meet global demand.
Growth will also require 180,000 first officers to be trained to airline captains, more than in any other decade, the report says. It’s something that airlines need to focus on now, says CAE chief executive Marc Parent, as more than 50 per cent of the pilots that need to join the profession have not yet started training.
The Asia-Pacific region, where a rapidly growing middle class has helped boost demand for low-cost air travel, is expected to see the strongest increase in pilot demand as it remains the fastest growing region for air travel, the report says. With international travel being expanded among airlines in the region, CAE estimates more than 90,000 pilots will be needed by 2027.
Parent said the rapid growth and increased pilot demand provides an opportunity for both airlines and training companies like CAE to create new programs and training infrastructure, particularly in emerging markets such as Asia-Pacific, needed to address potential gaps in the system.
“If you look at emerging markets, one of the problems is there isn’t enough infrastructure,” Parent said.
“In North America, you can find a flying school or two at every major airport. But that’s not the case, for example, if you go to southeast Asia or India. We have to create that infrastructure.”
In 2016, about 20,000 pilots entered the airline profession, with more than half graduating from smaller, independent flight schools typically located at smaller airports. About 6,5000 were trained at professional academies that work with airlines, and 3,000 came from military, university and business jet backgrounds.
Parent said the number of pilots required in the next 10 years was largely what CAE expected, based on current market growth. However, he was surprised to see how many new pilots will be needed in North America to fill the void left by retiring pilots.
According to the report, airlines in the Americas, particularly Canada and the United States, boast the oldest pilots with average pilot age being 48 as of 2016. Europe, meanwhile, has the youngest pilots with an average of 43.7 years. North America is expected to experience the most pilot retirements, boosting the need for 85,000 new pilots by 2027.
Parent points to several reasons why there aren’t enough new pilots to replace retiring ones.
“Being a pilot in the Americas is not as attractive as a profession and it has been displaced by other kind of industries. Only a fraction of the number of pilots that come out of the military now go on to a career in airlines,” he said. “We have to find different mechanisms to attract pilots to the field from the United States and Canada.”
This is not the first report that has signalled a need for more pilots in the commercial airline industry. Last year, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) found the Asia-Pacific region will need 230,000 pilots by 2030 and have to train approximately 14,000 to meet that need.