Bob Geuens

Bob Geuens

6 June 2018 - 1.1k views

Posted in Jobs

Road to the Right Seat 36 – The Pilot Shortage

4 min read

Story series: Road to the Right Seat

We've all had a crazy childhood dream and mine was becoming an airline pilot. Many young people who aspire a flying career are unaware of the content of flight training and the preparations which are needed. On November 23rd, 2015 I started my ATPL(A) training. Time to realize my childhood dream. I'd like to take you along on an adventure and I'll happily answer all your questions on the way. Let's do this!

We are all well aware that finding a job as a pilot is not an easy task. It’s also one of the main reasons why people doubt wether they should start flight training or not. Because of that reason I want to take you on my personal road to the right seat and tell you all about my personal experiences. May the jobhunt begin!

Airlines all around the world are in a desperate search for pilots and the infamous pilot shortage is the main conversation topic within the industry once again. But is it just an exception or is there really an upcoming shortage? I did some research!

Perfect timing
It’s undeniable that right now is the perfect time to find an airline job. They like to call it the biggest pilot shortage of the 21st century! Pilots don’t look for jobs, but airlines look for pilots. A big contrast when compared to a few years ago when many aspiring pilots lost hope during their search for a seat in the cockpit.

There are a few reasons why the shortage is gradually increasing again. The economy is doing great, fuel prices are low and airlines have more financial resources to expand their operations. In Belgium the age at which you normally retire as a pilot has been extended from 60 to 65 a few years ago and of course that doesn’t go without any consequences

Even the national carriers are looking for pilots and that causes a lot of movement within the industry. Many of us aspire a career at airlines such as Brussels Airlines, Air France, KLM and you can’t blame them for taking a chance in these times. However, this also results in regionals and lowcost airlines to have a lack of pilots.

Smaller airlines have more difficulties to fill up their shortage, but that’s pure music to the ears of young pilots looking for their first job. Airlines try to find pilots by giving out better contracts and financial benefits making it sound like an absolute dream.

The pilot shortage can be felt all around the world, but mostly in Asia. Airlines are lacking experienced First Officers and Captains and they have found a solution for the issue. Money! By offering European pilots extreme salaries such as $20.000 per month they try to fill up the gaps. And well, for some it is the only reason they need to move.

In the United States young pilots have to face another issue. 1500 flights hours are required in order to apply to an airline, obliging them to gain experience through other sorts of flying. Examples are being an instructor, towing gliders or simply flying for the fun of it!

The graph depicted above shows the expected number of pilots needed between 2016 and 2035. We can clearly see that Asia takes the lead with almost half of the total required.

Flight schools
It’s no secret that flight schools love talking about the pilot shortage. They like to use it as a marketing strategy to clear away people’s doubts, even when the job market may not be booming at all.

In my honest opinion there is no such thing as a good time to start flight training. The future seems bright, but the aviation industry is still quite unpredictable and the financial risk will always be present. The constant rise of training costs will therefore remain a big barrier for those who aspire a flying career.

Nowadays there are a few airlines who offer a cheaper training with the opportunity of flying for them after completion. The selections will be tough and the available spots limited, but it’s a chance you should surely take if you want to cut the costs. 

Conclusion: at this moment the job market is booming and the outlook seems bright, but unfortunately we can’t predict the future. 

My personal experience
At the start of my jobhunt I contacted five different airlines. Surprisingly, I received  positive answer from all of them and had the chance to participate in their selection processes. The same goes for many others, giving everyone a fair chance to get a job.

The shortage really peaked when airlines started contacting the flight schools to ask for graduates’ their personal info in order to invite them for interviews. Everyone gets a chance, but let’s not forget that you must always do your very best if you want to achieve your goal.

Thank you for reading the blog once again! Stay tuned because next week it is time for some big news… See you then!

Instagram: @bobthebelgian

This story is part of the series Road to the Right Seat

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