A common question we get asked is how will the Coronavirus impact demand for pilots? I’m sure you’ve all seen the news stories about airlines freezing hiring, furloughs, and parking airplanes. These are all extremely necessary measures to protect the airlines from shutting down forever. The real answer to the proposed question is that in the short term it will impact pilot demand, but long term it’s going to increase the demand even more than it was before the Coronavirus impacted things. After September 11th, 2001 for the following decade hardly anyone was training to become a career pilot. The lack of new Commercial certificates issued coupled with the mandatory retirements at the airlines created what we now know today as the “pilot shortage”. The shortage is not going away as the airlines still face massive retirement numbers for the next 20 years. Due to the Coronavirus airlines have been offering pilots early retirements which curb the slowdown now – but don’t account for the future when things return back to normal (which they will much faster than previous downturns).
The recent events with this virus that have transpired will pass, airlines will recover much faster than the financial crisis of 2008 and ultimately they will continue to grow. When that happens they are going to be even more desperate for pilots as they haven’t solved the original “shortage” that was created during the lost decade between 2001 and 2011. The vacuum that the major airlines will create by sucking up all of the pilots from regionals/corporate/government flying jobs etc… leaves a massive void at all levels. In 2018 Boeing forecasted a 20 year demand for 790,000 new pilots across the world. The demand is being driven by an anticipated doubling of the global commercial airplane fleet — as reported in Boeing’s Commercial Market Outlook — as well as record-high air travel demand and a tightening labor supply. The entire United States as of 2018 had only 633,000 pilots and of those 162,000 of them held an Airline Transport Rating which is required to fly at an Airline. The entire world relies on air travel to connect us with the rest of civilization. Family vacations will still happen, packages still need to be moved, business travelers have conferences and meetings to attend.
The best time to be training for a career in aviation is during an economic downturn or a speed bump such as we’re experiencing now. Having an amazing career at the airlines is all about timing – most in the industry call it the “wave”. If you get in when the wave is starting, you can ride it all the way to the top. If you get in when everyone else is already at the top you will more likely not experience the career progression that eventually would have had you in a Boeing 777 making $300,000 a year. People will undoubtedly give up on their training for a myriad of reasons during this time, and we highly encourage those who are pursuing a career in aviation to keep going and not be discouraged by these events. When nobody else is training for a career in aviation and there aren’t enough pilots to cover the demand you’ll be the first one ready for the next wave. For those of you who are in the middle of their flight training right now – when you eventually get to the point of being ready for a commercial flying job in 1 to 2 years there will be a buffet of options for you to choose from.
If you’re a current Commercial Pilot who doesn’t have additional ratings now is a great time to add your CFI, CFII, or MEI to help you become more marketable. What you do now is going to give you the big advantage over your peers.
If you’d like to have a thorough understanding of the FAA National Forecast through 2039 we’ve attached the document Here
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