Historically, the Legacy Airlines have had a pool of experienced pilots to choose from when they begin to hire pilots. This pool has consisted of formerly furloughed pilots, retired military pilots and Regional Airline Pilots who have built up enough Jet Pilot-in-command experience to be attractive to the Major Airlines.
The Airlines will find that things have changed when they start hiring again. Although there were a lot of pilots furloughed in 2008, a large number of them have taken flying jobs abroad or jobs outside of the airlines. The airline industry has been booming overseas in the Middle East, China, India, Africa and the Pacific Rim. None of these areas have developed the flight training infrastructure that exists in the United States. When the foreign airline industry began to quickly outpace the number of qualified pilots in their respective countries, they began to come to the U.S. to hire experienced pilots and found a large group of qualified pilots who had been furloughed from the U.S. airlines. These foreign airlines have hired large numbers of these U.S. pilots, and moved them overseas.
The U.S. military has also long been a source of well trained and experienced pilots for the U.S. airline industry. Over the recent decade though, the military has trained fewer pilots due to the downsizing of each branch of the service, and the increasing use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). In addition, due to conflicts abroad, the military has successfully increased their efforts to retain their pilots and keep them from retiring.
In Part 3 of this series we will take a look at the last factors contributing to a perfect storm of a pilot shortage, and the opportunities that it will provide for those who are prepared to seize those opportunities.