New Pilots

Pilot Shortage - new trends in the Aviation Industry - 2016+

2016 03 09

10 years ago... worldwide air travel was predicted to reach record levels between 2015 and 2020. Passenger Services, Air Cargo, and Business Aviation - local and global. Clearly we have reached and potentially exceeded these predictions. Global Aviation in 2016 is officially massive.


Many of us (at PCC) have been in the aviation industry for over 20 years. And we have never seen nor imagined what we are seeing in early 2016:

Airlines the world over are really struggling to crew their airplanes as they expand.

Starting in the USA... the Regional Airlines - once the cheapest, lowest paying corporations on earth - have been forced into increasing their pay rates to attract new pilots. Some now offer 10,000 USD up to 15,000 USD signing bonuses for new-hire First Officers. To get an idea - not long ago the annual pay for a new-hire was on average $28,000 USD.  Now look again at the signing bonus.  Clearly a massive upgrade (% wise) with more to come. Today, many regional airlines are partnering with US Flight Schools to develop programs that will take candidates from flight training, to flight instructing, to the regional airline, and later to the associated major airline. Incredible. On the other side of the coin, lets look at United Airlines. Over the last 6 months United has ordered numerous Boeing B737-700NG's.  Why did they do that?  Simple... to deploy their own aircraft on the thinner routes currently operated by their regional affiliates. All to protect their brand from additional cancellations caused by the pilot-shortage at the Regionals. Incredible. One last simple statement - The US Majors are huge and need to continuously hire indefinitely; taking the majority of their new-hires from the US Regional Airlines.

In Canada, the uber successful WestJet group expanded into both the regional sector (with WestJet Encore) and the Trans Atlantic/International side with their first B767-300 widebodies.  And today the largest Canadian airline... Air Canada, has published a 'Pilot Position/Base Bid' result that shows hundreds of vacant positions. The majority of these seats are reserved for Jazz Aviation, one of the regional airlines that operate services on their behalf. No question the upcoming Air Canada hiring boom is going to drain a large percentage of the Jazz pilot group.  Both Air Canada and Jazz will be hiring pilots as fast as they can for the forseeable future.  Domino effect across Canada.

It gets better...

For the last three years, the big three Middle East Airlines (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways) have been sending their Pilot Recruitment Personnel across the globe to host their own Pilot Recruitment Fairs. Today these fairs are much more than 'meet and greet'.  They involve partial screenings and ofter Simulator Evaluations. All in the name of...  'This is CRITICAL --- Recruit the pilots and get them into our system asap!'

In China... Hainan Airlines has followed suit with their own Pilot (Captain) Recruitment Fairs in Europe, Australia, and the USA.  Now we can see other Pilot Recruitment Agencies commencing their own Global Pilot Recruitment Fairs for experienced Captains and First Officers.   China has no fewer than 10 large airlines searching for experienced Captains to fly their B737NG's, A320's, A330's, B757/B767's, B787's, B777's and B747-400's.  In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific is in desperate need of pilots and have set up three ways to enter the airline from local HKG Cadets with zero experience, to newly licenced pilots, to medium experienced pilots from across the globe.  Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express (low-cost) continue to expand and hire pilots. Next door in South East Asia, low-cost airlines have had a massive effect and share some of the highest expansion rates in the world - airAsia, Lion Air, Citylink, Tiger Airways, Malindo, Nok Air, Scoot to name a few.

The Indian Airline industry, with oil at record lows, has returned to boom status. All airlines in the subcontinent are desperate to hire type rated and non-type rated, experienced Captains and First Officers. Basically whomever meets their standards at the interview stage - get them training and into the seat as soon as possible.

Downunder, Qantas has turned the corner at warp speed and will be looking to hire pilots at a high rate over the next 3 - 4 years... drawing pilots from Qantaslink and other regional airlines in the region. Huge hiring planned in Oz. Yet another domino affect across their local aviation industry.

In Europe, British Airways is hiring loads of pilots through a number of schemes, Iberia is looking to hire crews, low-cost giants Ryanair, Wizzair, and Veuling all expanding. Turkish Airlines is an excellent company that for years has been handcuffed by an out of date International Airport in Istanbul. Expect an incredible expansion and success when the new airport is ready. In the meantime, they are hiring pilots.

What goes around comes around...

Europe's Turkish Airlines, Jet2, and British Airways have, over the last 18 months, sent their Pilot Recruitment Teams to the Middle East to host their own Pilot Recruitment Roadshows - in order to convince the European Pilots flying there to return home to Europe. Attempting to attract them with steady rosters, lower fatigue levels, and lower monthly block hours - seen as very important in 2016.  (90-95 hour International Rosters can be hard on the body, especially with multiple time changes week in - week out).

In 2016, the pilot shortage has reached a critical level. Airline HR Teams and Recruitment Agencies are now travelling the globe to meet, attract, and to recruit experienced pilots. Without even knowing, these teams may be on the same flights or may inadvertently bump into each other in the airport terminals - all in search of the same people (pilots). Unheard of until now. 

Lastly - Business Aviation. 

A lot of people are unaware of this aviation sector. If you have aspirations of being a professional pilot - you need to be aware.  'Business Aviation', including private aviation for high wealth individuals, corporate aviation for expanding companies, and VVIP aviation for heads of state etc. has exploded over the last 10 years. The advances in technology, luxury and comfort in this sector is second to none. There seems to be an invisible war being fought on who has the most luxurious and effective global business jet.  Bombardier, Gulfstream, and Dassault Falcon all produce immaculate, state-of-the-art 'business jets' that cross oceans at record altitudes, speeds, times, and comfort levels.  At the same time, successful business around the world are utilizing new, affordable Very Light Business Jets to help them close sales, meet new clients etc.  And guess what - they need Flight Crews as well.


For those of you not yet flying in the aviation industry, we are in interesting times.


Low Cost Airlines:

Approximately ten years ago, low-cost airlines really started to make a serious dent in the industry. At the time, the business cases were there - Ryanair, Southwest, easyJet, WestJet, jetstar, and airAsia were highly successful and profitable despite the low airfares. Their business plans were as solid as their expansion plans. Others began to copycat - the world over. Low-cost airline accountants studied every way to cut costs. They focused a lot on pilot contracts, incl. maximum duty times and developed ways to get the absolute maximum out of pilots. Regulations such as Maximum Flight Hours became the 'Target'... instead of the absolute regulated maximum. If an country's aviation authority stipulates a pilot cannot fly more than 900 hours per year, the low-cost airlines have made that their GOAL for every last pilot they have. 900 hours.  Anything else is a failure.

Major Airlines / Flag Carriers:

Five years ago - the majority of major airlines across the globe did two things to stay in business and to stay competitive: 

1. They started their own low-cost airlines with new, lower-pay contracts and higher working hours for their pilots, flight attendants, and other staff. 

2. They developped new rostering practices across their fleets to maximize their investment in the pilots.  Similar to low cost airlines, they made the Regulated Maximum Flight Hours per year, their absolute TARGET for each pilot.

Interestingly this all occured with stable $100 Oil and expensive Jet Fuel. Cost cutting and efficiency was critical. 

In 2016, with the pilot shortages, surprisingly low oil/jet-fuel prices, and massive demand for global air travel, most international airlines are struggling to operate their expanding schedules. Competition is rife. Every international pilot we know is flying 20-25 percent more hours per month and per year than they did even 10 years ago. Despite all of this, these same airlines continue to announce the delivery of new airplanes and new route expansion.

The problem is two-fold;   Where to find the pilots, and how to find the pilots?  

In the USA, the shortage of new pilots enterring the industry (caused mainly by years of subsistence pay scales) has spawned partnerships between Regional Airlines (and jetBlue) and training schools across the USA. They must attract new pilots into the industry immediately. Internationally the issue is centered around where to find Experienced Flight Deck Crews. While you read this, Pilot Recruitment Roadshows around the globe are being planned/scheduled by Agencies and Airlines.... all trying to recruit essenially the same pilots.


The Pilot Shortage is here.

If you haven't noticed it, you soon will. Those of us in the industry flying the airplanes are anticipating Routes/Services to be cancelled due to lack of flight deck crews. It will happen soon. Just a matter of time. It happens every day with the US Regional Airlines. The international airlines are next on deck - and none of them want to be the first to admit they had to cancel a service due to lack of pilots. Massive loss of face. It is coming though. It will occur.


If you want to become a pilot, now is a great time to get started. Caution though - you will need to position yourself well to make it in this industry.  No one is going to hand you a career as a professional pilot.  No foreign country and no foreign airline is going to beg you to join and pay for your flight training.

Instead you need to Position Yourself for Success:

A prospective pilot in 2016+ needs to research and understand their own local aviation industry. And from there, be responsible for your own career path and opportunities.

You will need to talk to people in the industry, at the local flight school, charter company, airlines. You need to get a feel for the industry. At the same time, it definitely helps to work hard and score high with Secondary School Marks/Grades/Honours. There are some incredible National Cadet Programs out there - and they will surely check your Secondary School grades prior to admission. For those training privately outside of cadetships,  it is equally important to work hard and score high on your CPL & ATPL/ATP Exams and Flight Tests. Aim for the stars and never look back!

Remember, no charter company, flight school, or airline wants to hire a mediocre pilot. Everything matters; from getting to know people in the industry, making solid connections, to Effective Pilot-Resume/CV Design, to maintaining excellent employment and safety records, and finally.... to excelling on the Phone Interview, the In Person Interview & the Simulator Evaluation. All extremely important.

We will touch on these - and how to position yourself for success in future PCC Blogs.

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