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US Airlines to Face Pilot Shortage!

EKU Aviation fleet

AeroStar Training Services cites looming pilot shortage.

According to an article from AOPA, written by Susan Carey, Jack Nicas, and Andy Pasztor, U.S. airlines are facing what looks to be their most serious pilot shortage since the 1960s. Federal mandates taking effect summer of 2013 will require all newly hired pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of prior flight experience. This is six times the current minimum, which will raise the cost and time to train new pilots while pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already have made the profession less attractive. This is all happening while thousands of senior pilots at major airlines soon will start hitting the mandatory retirement age of 65. More than half of U.S. airline pilots are over 50, said Kit Darby, the consultant, reflecting a bulge in new hires in the 1980s and scant hiring over the past decade.

Another federal safety rule impacting jobs in the USA, scheduled to take effect in early 2014, also will give way to another change by giving pilots more daily rest time. This change is expected to force passenger airlines to increase their pilot ranks by at least 5%. Kit Darby, a consultant on pilot-hiring trends, adds "We are about four years from a solution, but we are only about six months away from
a problem."

Estimates differ on the problem's magnitude. Airlines for America, a trade group of the largest carriers that collectively employ 50,800 pilots now, cites a study by the University of North Dakota's aviation department that indicates major airlines will need to hire 60,000 pilots by 2025 to replace departures and cover expansion. Mr. Darby's further calculates that all U.S. airlines, including cargo, charter and regional carriers, together employ nearly 96,000 pilots, and will need to find more than 65,000 over the next eight years.

The FAA's head of flight standards, John Allen, said at an industry conference this summer that the projected retirement numbers are "astounding and dramatic" and "we don't have a system to address this issue." A spokeswoman for the FAA said its official position is "to obtain data to determine long-term pilot staffing needs and solutions."

After a decade of consolidation and restructuring, some large carriers are planning to start hiring again. Delta Air Lines Inc. DAL +1.08%estimates it will need 3,500 new pilots over the next decade to maintain its ranks at 12,000, not including any growth. American Airlines recently said it plans to add 2,500 pilots over the next five years. United Continental Holdings Inc. UAL -0.05%has begun taking applications for a few positions in its Continental subsidiary.

Dave Barger, chief executive of JetBlue Airways Corp., JBLU +0.38%said in an October speech that the industry is "facing an exodus of talent in the next few years" and could "wake up one day and find we have no one to operate or maintain those planes."

Published on May 06, 2013

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