Pilot Retirements Pose Challenges for US Airlines in the Coming Years

Pilot Retirements

The aviation industry is set to face a major challenge in the coming years as a significant number of pilots will be forced to retire due to age restrictions. According to the Regional Airline Association (RAA), nearly 50% of the commercial airline workforce will retire over the next 15 years due to reaching the age of 65. This “coming tsunami of pilot retirements” will have a significant impact on the industry and may result in a shortage of qualified pilots.

The Impact of Pilot Shortage on the Industry

The shortage of pilots is already being felt by regional carriers, as the twelve largest carriers in the US hired 13,128 pilots in 2022, with most of these pilots coming from regional airlines. The RAA has warned that this shortage will only worsen in the coming years, which will have real impacts on airlines, airports, and passengers.

The shortage of pilots has led to over 500 regional aircraft being parked, while those still in operation are being underutilized. This has resulted in 308 airports losing about one-quarter of their flights, affecting 72% of all US airports. Despite compensation increases, new partnerships and pathways, and larger carriers, the industry has not been successful in attracting new cadets outside the industry’s core demographic of white males.

Image by: ATP Flight School

Recommendations to Address the Pilot Shortage

The RAA has proposed various measures to address the pilot shortage, including increasing the retirement age of pilots beyond 65, which is currently the age limit for pilots. The RAA also urged Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration to expand training pathways and incorporate modern technology in pilot training. This would allow cadets to obtain their first officer qualifications faster without endangering aviation safety.

Another long-term solution would be to address the financial barriers many aspiring pilots face in becoming qualified pilots, which can cost at least $80,000 but can balloon up to $200,000.

Image by: airwaysmag.com

ALPA’s Assertion that There is No Pilot Shortage

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has countered the notion that there is a pilot shortage, stating that the supply of airline pilots available exceeds the demand for available pilot jobs. ALPA pointed out that since 2013, about 64,000 new pilots have been produced, and 40,000 were hired, of which 20,000 were hired to accommodate growth. Federal Aviation Administration and Bureau of Labor Statistics data also suggest that there are currently about 1.5 certificated pilots relative to demand.

ALPA believes that the industry has a shortage of executives “willing to stand by their business decisions to cut air service and be upfront about their intentions to skirt safety rules and hire inexperienced workers for less pay.”

Image by: Airline Applications

The pilot shortage in the US aviation industry is a real concern that could potentially affect the industry’s growth and operations. While the RAA has proposed various measures to address the shortage, including increasing the retirement age and improving training pathways, ALPA has countered that there is no pilot shortage, pointing out that there is a surplus of available pilots relative to demand. Regardless of differing opinions, it is clear that the pilot shortage is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach to address.

Also, you might interested in reading: The Pandemic is Diminishing Pilots’ Flying Abilities


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