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Leading Edge: January/February 2018

Finding solutions to the growing pilot shortage in Canada is one of the most pressing issues facing the Canadian aviation industry – and it’s a challenge that affects all segments, from large commercial operations to northern operators, the military and rotary-wing operators from coast to coast.


January 3, 2018
By Matt Nicholls
Canada will experience a pilot shortage of some 6 Finding solutions to the growing pilot shortage in Canada is one of the most pressing issues facing the Canadian aviation industry

The numbers are indeed staggering. The Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace (CCAA) estimates that Canada will experience a pilot shortage of some 6,000 pilots over the next 20 years with annual pilot shortfall of some 200 pilots. It’s an issue that’s also not unique to Canada. In its 2017 Airline Pilot Demand Forecast released at last year’s Paris Air Show, Montreal-based training and development company CAE revealed that the global demand for pilots over the next 20 years will reach 255,000, with some 85,000 of those jobs based in the Americas. The CAE report concludes that many of these pilots have not even commenced their training yet.

Recent studies by Airbus (more than a million pilots and technicians by 2036), Boeing (1.2 million pilots and technicians by 2036) and the International Civil Aviation Organization  (15,000 new pilots globally over the next two decades) outline the scope of the global demand. Many of these new positions will be filled by pilots being trained in Canada, as a large contingent of students training at Canadian flight schools currently are foreign students. Canadian flight schools offer extremely high-training standards and graduates are highly-sought after for positions abroad; as the numbers reveal, the opportunities are certainly there.

The diminishing talent base in Canada is not unique to professionals flying the aircraft, either. The shortfall starts with qualified flight instructors at Canadian flight schools and is affecting other aviation professions such as retiring airport professionals, flight attendants and more.

The Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) has taken a leadership role in the development of such solutions to the industry shortfall with the formation of its Pilot Shortage Discussion Panel last May. As ATAC president John McKenna reported in the July/August 2017 issue of Wings, the symposium brought together the CCAA, the College of Professional Pilots of Canada and operators including Sunwing, WestJet, Air Georgian, Jazz and Porter Airlines to share experiences and seek to find solutions.

Much of the group’s progress was shared at the ATAC conference Nov. 6-9 in Montreal, as the task force described how it plans to unite as an industry, raise awareness about the profession, seek government support to help students with high training costs and look for tangible ways to help feed the pipeline and entice a new generations of pilots and aviation professionals.

Wings and Helicopters magazines are doing their part to help guide and educate younger generations with the development of our Careers in Education Guide and the continued growth of our Careers in Aviation Expos. Both products aim to provide more information about a wide cross-section of aviation professions.

This year’s CIA Expos – Saturday, April 28 at the Jazz Aviation hangar in Toronto and Saturday, May 12 at the Aurora Jet Partners fixed based operation in Edmonton – will give aspiring aviators a chance to rub shoulders with a wide cross-section of aviation and aerospace professionals, presenting an opportunity to gain insightful information what to expect in their desired career path.

Building on some of the efforts outlined by the ATAC Pilot Recruitment working group to attract more aviation cadets to educational career development events, Wings is working with the Air Cadet League of Canada and industry partners to find ways to bring more cadets to the Toronto Expo, including offering the first 100 cadets through the door free of charge. See careersinaviation.ca/expo to register. 


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