AFM.aero Managing Director Shares Thoughts on US Pilot Shortage with AeroTime Hub

AFM.aero’s Managing Director Maximilian Buerger shared his thoughts on the root causes of the shortage of qualified pilots with AeroTime Hub. Below is a snapshot of the article;

The roots of the current situation lie as far as back as 9/11, explained Maximilian Buerger, managing director of AFM.Aero, a market intelligence platform and advisory firm for the pilot training industry. 

The US travel industry slumped after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001. Then came the global financial crisis just a few years later, in 2007/2008. Many airlines nearly collapsed and consolidation followed. That led to major cost cuts, including to pilot salaries, with first officer pay sometimes being at minimum wage levels. 

Finally, the Colgan Air crash of 2009 led to a requirement that pilots must accrue 1,500 hours before they can fly for the commercial carriers in the United States. 

All of those factors combined to reduce the lure of the job, Buerger said. 

“The pilot profession is just not seen to be as attractive in the US as it is in other regions.,” Buerger said. “You have to spend a lot of money on training, you start on a lower salary than in other sectors such as banking or IT, and then you can’t even get to the airlines for two years because you have to build your hours.”  

Buerger added the pandemic has damaged the image of being a pilot further.  “There’s instability, what if there is another wave? You might lose your job again.”

Added to those factors, the pandemic has meant that airlines have used early retirements as a way to cut costs quickly during the downturn, while schools have halted training programs, leaving a gap at entry-level.

AFM.Aero’s Buerger says globally we could end up in a situation similar to 2018/2019, when airlines hungry for pilots were snapping up flight instructors from flight schools, leaving the schools unable to train enough new pilots to meet demand. Airlines will most likely also start stepping in to finance cadet programs after a long gap.

“I predict that 2023 will be the year of the cadet program. As long as airlines can offer a job at the end of training, schools can use that to set up financing programs.”

“This industry follows quite a pronounced boom and bust cycle,” concludes Buerger. “We just had the biggest bust in the history of this industry and the effects of it could lead to the biggest boom the pilot training industry has ever experienced.”

The full article can be found on AeroTime Hub.

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