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Brace yourself for the pilot shortage: is it coming or not?

Oct. 30, 2014, Vilnius, Lithuania - “Pilot shortage hits”, “The coming pilot shortage”, “Pilot shortage is real”, “Airlines suffer pilot shortage” – these are the highlights from our everyday media. Being in the business of aviation training, such news give a great future perspective for both, our students who are aiming for pilot career and, let’s be honest, for our business. So we encourage young people to seek for their dream career, because now is the best time to do that, right? Right. But then again, why we do face the fact that some bright young pilots struggle to get a job?


October 30, 2014
Carey Fredericks

In 2013 Current Market Outlook Boeing stated that over the next 20 years 498,000 new commercial airline pilots and 556,000 new maintenance technicians would be demanded. In 2014 same outlook presents even higher numbers raising them up to the 533,000 for commercial pilots and 584,000 maintenance technicians. The numbers looks promising and it would only be logical if the pilot shortage would be a present problem. However, some European airlines (let’s focus on the issue rather than names of the company) that we asked to share their insights about the topic admitted that they do not have any problems to fill in the positions with already experienced pilots. Fair enough – according to the outlook the forecast for pilot need in Europe, comparing with other regions is the lowest. But still, doesn’t it feel like we are living in the moment, rather than considering the future? Let’s admit that by hiring experienced pilots, airlines avoid some unnecessary inconveniences like longer training time, or occupational mistakes. However, Benjamin Franklin once said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Gladly, many airlines agree on that, and try to hire fresh type rated pilots, or cadets as long as they are able to fulfill their need with experienced pilots. Though the numbers of hiring inexperienced pilots ranges, depending on the company size and development, it is noted that, it rises with every year.

What are your strengths, inexperienced pilot?

Companies agree on one, that the most valuable advantage of young pilot is his motivation and devotion for the profession, which are the driving forces for the great skills performance. “When you hire a fresh rated pilot there some advantages for your company: you may form pilots from the ground up, self-sponsored pilots are very high motivated and in addition to that, hundreds of candidates, allows you to choose the best. While choosing the best candidate the main criterion is attitude. Candidate must fit the company culture and at the same time succeed on ground and simulator tests”, shares his insights Gianfranco Giacchetti Director of Flight Operations at Volotea.

Nikola Vukelic, Training Centre Director, Montenegro Airlines adds that the main criterion for inexperienced pilots is psychometric test. “We are looking for pilots on whom we can work, and who can become captain in 5 years. In other words, we are looking for their capability to become captain”, comments Nikola Vukelic.

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Baltic Aviation Academy CEO, Egle Vaitkeviciute shares employer’s opinion. “It is only natural that every employer is looking not only for the high skilled professional, but also for the one with the right personality traits. What is right – again, it is an experience that the airlines aim to project for the customers, it is the aim of the airlines to be outstanding in the market. They choose accordingly based on their identified personality traits in addition to candidate’s motivation. Pilot profession requires a full commitment that is why our candidate assessment procedures include many attitude and aptitude tests helping to pick only the most suitable candidates for pilot profession”, comments Egle Vaitkeviciute.

So, what now?

The upraising pilot shortage is a fact. While situation in Europe today might not be clear, inexperienced pilots shouldn’t view it as a fiction. However the homework must be done – the most promising region for pilot career continues to be Asia, with a predicted 216,000 new pilots need by 2033. This region should not be missed by pilots with no experience or less experience as it may become a perfect opportunity to build your flying hours. The changing fleet in the regions or top-employers also should be taken into consideration. According to the Quarterly Aviation Market Review of AviaAM Leasing, only during the last year, Boeing received orders on 712 aircraft, Airbus – 789 aircraft, Embraer 173 aircraft – someone will have to pilot them, right? And most importantly, the self-improvement must be taken into consideration. Airline as every other employer do not hire just skills, they hire a team member and representative of their brand.