HomeBusiness'Tsunami of pilot retirements' will hit US aviation industry, experts warn

‘Tsunami of pilot retirements’ will hit US aviation industry, experts warn

Aviation experts warn that the US airline industry will be hit by a “tsunami of pilot retirements” in the coming years, which could mean fewer travel options and price increases.

On Wednesday, Regional Airline Association CEO Faye Malarkey Black told the US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that over the next 15 years, nearly 50% of the US workforce will commercial airlines will be forced to retire because they will turn 65. .

There are 70% more pilots between the ages of 43 and 64 than between 21 and 42, Black said. “Reflecting the high cost of flight education and training, the ‘under 30’ pilot cohort is the smallest at around 8% of total pilots,” she added.

As a result, 2,225 pilots are due to retire this year and required retirements will peak in 2029 at 3,750, when pilots who are now 58 will turn 65.

The Regional Airlines Association represents regional airlines that provide feeders to larger airlines facing their own pilot shortage. The shortage has prompted the largest airlines like United, American and Delta to hire pilots from regional airlines.

According to Black, 12 major airlines have had to hire 13,128 pilots in 2022, getting “almost all of these pilots from regional airlines.”

The regional airline industry, in turn, is currently suffering from a “devastating pilot shortage” despite rising passenger demand. The shortage, which has been growing for decades, has been largely driven by the “inability to create a sustainable pipeline of new pilots,” Black said.

One of the main challenges is the “lack of action by the Federal Aviation Administration in advancing and evolving pilot training standards,” Black told the panel, adding that most pilots only have access to a hour-based pilot qualification standard that “incorporates little actual training after the completion of the flight.” school”.

This has resulted in more pilot candidates failing today than before qualification standards “favored flight time over quality training,” he said.

The loss of flights and the decline in pilots reflect grimly on medium and large airports across the country. Forty-two states now have less air service than before the Covid-19 pandemic. Fourteen of those states have lost at least 20% of their service.

Meanwhile, more than 500 regional jets sit idle and the planes that have remained in service are currently underutilized, Black said.

Other factors contributing to the pilot shortage include high training costs. Education and flight training at FAA-certified pilot schools cost about $80,000, which can later rise to more than $200,000 when combined with the additional expenses of a bachelor’s degree, Black said.

Due to high costs, only the “luckiest or wealthiest” pursue a career as a pilot in an industry that already lacks diversity: 95.7% of the profession identifies as white, according to federal Census Bureau statistics. about pilots.

One cost-effective solution proposed by experts is to provide simulators more widely, according to aviation training company FlightSafety International.

“Awarding credit for simulator training toward each qualification on the ladder to becoming a professional pilot would make high-quality simulator experience an implicit part of the development of commercial pilots,” the executive director of FlightSafety International told the committee. , Brad Thress.

It added: “Increasing the maximum amount of credit for simulator training to a greater portion of a pilot’s flight experience would have a significant positive impact on the safety of our industry.”



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