Shrinking Pool of Future Pilots Keeps Major Airlines on Edge

The shrinking supply of airline pilots has been ravaging the regional airlines for the last few years and as predicted it is now affecting the major and even the legacy airlines. Recent articles in major publications are calling attention to the worsening situation and the opportunities for flying careers with the airlines that it creates at the same time.

An article on Bloomberg.com highlights some components of the pilot shortage:

That looming pilot deficit will soar to 15,000 by 2026, according to a study by the University of North Dakota’s Aviation Department, as more captains reach the mandatory retirement age of 65 and fewer young people choose commercial aviation as a profession. And that’s in an industry where captains on the biggest international jets average more than $200,000 a year — with some pushing $300,000.

“That is one of the things in my job I get to worry about every day and when I go to bed at night,” said Greg Muccio, a senior manager at Southwest Airlines commenting on the pilot shortage, “That’s what puts us in the most jeopardy.”

Airlines are responding by changing hiring requirements, boosting signing bonuses at regional carriers they own and partnering with flight schools. Muccio spends some of his time trying to interest college, high school and even elementary students in an aviation career, while he’s working to extend the biggest three-year expansion of pilot hiring in Southwest’s history.

More than 30,000 pilots — or half the current total of 60,222 at 10 large U.S. airlines, United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. — will reach age 65 by 2026, according to data compiled by Kit Darby, president of KitDarby.com

At American’s Envoy unit, the promise of a seamless move to a major carrier is a big draw, said Jon Reibach, the airline’s director of pilot recruiting. Joshua Gimre, 22, who is accumulating hours as a flight instructor after graduating in Texas and joining Envoy, could become a captain at American by the time he’s 45, with a 20-year flying career still ahead of him.”

“Once a young pilot interviews with us, that’s the last airline interview they’ll ever have to do,” Reibach said.

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