Retirements and Stiffer Training Requirements Fuel Pilot Shortage

In business, one party’s problem is often another’s opportunity. That is how an article begins in the Indianapolis Business Journal reporting on the snowballing pilot shortage that is threatening the airline industry.

But the flip side of the pilot shortage is this: It’s a good time to be entering the airline profession.

Regional carriers are offering higher pay and benefits to lure candidates. Aviation schools, of which ATP is the nation’s busiest, are working more closely than ever with airlines and creating a direct pipeline from classroom to cockpit.

In its 2016 Pilot and Technician Outlook report, aircraft manufacturer Boeing predicts a need for 112,000 new pilots in North America—and 617,000 worldwide—over the next 20 years. The report also predicts a growing need for aircraft dispatchers, mechanics and cabin crew.

“As global economies expand and airlines take delivery of tens of thousands of new commercial jetliners over the next 20 years, there is extraordinary demand for people to fly and maintain these airplanes,” the report says. It also predicts that annual pilot deficits will escalate over the next decade and will total 15,000 by 2026.

As pilots hired at Legacy and Major Airlines (Delta, United, American, SouthWest) thirty years ago reach retirement, large airlines are often hiring pilots away from the regional airlines to replace them. This is great news for pilots as it creates opportunities to enter and advance careers flying for the airlines.

At the same time, federal regulations enacted three years ago have greatly increased the amount of flight experience required before a young pilot can get their first job flying for an airline. This is a problem solved for ATP’s students as they are given their first flying job as a flight instructor for ATP as soon as they finish flight training. These new Instructors will build quality flight experience with ATP until they are ready to join the airlines.

With each new airline pilot contract, airlines have raised newly hired First Officer pay to an annual wage of around $40,000. A pilot with four years of seniority can earn $80,000 at a regional airline in the United States.

But they can expect to earn more as the mean annual wage for airline Captains and First Officers was $136,400 last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That pay includes airlines of all sizes.

A few years ago, $30,000 was considered good pay for a first officer at a regional carrier, today newly hired First Officers can expect to earn $40,000-to-$65,000 in first-year income. Endeavor Air, a subsidiary of Delta, currently advertises a first-year salary of $50,000 for first officers for example.

A captain at any of these regional airlines with four years of seniority can earn $80,000, with the next step being a job with a legacy airline earning six-figure incomes that can lead to a Six-million dollar career!

Clearly the increasing shortage of airline pilots has created many opportunities for people to join the airline industry and have exciting and lucrative careers flying the newest and most advanced airliners in the air. The proven path to one of those careers begins by taking the first steps with ATP. ATP will help you earn your spot on the pilot seniority list of a great airline. After all, seniority is everything in the airline industry, get there first with ATP.