The Professional Aviation
   Board Of Certification

Why have PABC and the GPPC been created?

The Pilot Shortage: A Global Safety Concern

From January through June 2008, a pilot shortage occurred when a number of airlines were unable to hire and train the number of pilots needed to fly their published schedules. An even larger and much more sustained shortage is predicted to occur within the next few years as the global economy recovers from the current recession.

While some observers see the predicted shortage only as an inconvenience, slowing the growth of scheduled air service, the world’s aviation leaders see it as a serious safety threat. (See AeroSafety Worldarticle / Voss Sep08)

Click on the following for information on the size and causes of the shortage and what's being done to overcome these issues:

Pilot Demand: Annual Estimates
Industry and government decision makers have long relied on Airbus and Boeing market estimates as a credible long-range planning resource. Independently both companies project that global airline fleet expansion as of 2015 will require flight schools to produce roughly 27,000 new pilots per year for the next 20 years to staff these expanded operations.

Pilot Supply: Two Sources – The Pool and New Professional Pilots

The Pool

The recession has caused airlines, business flight departments and non-scheduled operators to downsize and that, in turn, has increased the pool of well-qualified pilots looking for work. The extent of that increase, however, is unknown, as is the length of time it might be relied on to fill the demand when robust hiring returns.

New Professional Pilots

Because of the Pilot Preparedness Gap, estimates of the annual production of new well-qualified pilots are extremely difficult to determine. The most accurate metric available is the number of new Commercial Pilot Licenses (CPL) issued by the world’s regulatory bodies, because this credential is a prerequisite for more advanced pre-employment training programs.

Estimated Pilot Shortage
In 2007 IATA estimated that approximately 15,000 pilots had earned their Commercial Pilot Licenses. Of that number, roughly 9,000 were licensed by the FAA and 6,000 were licensed by other regulatory authorities. Using the above figures, the estimated shortage would be:

Demand (20,000) - Supply (15,000) = Shortage (at least: 5,000 pilots per year)

This estimate assumes that:

  • The CPL is an acceptable entry-level Standard:

Does the industry accept the CPL as an acceptable level of preparation for employment by the industry?

  • Production is Steady:

Has the flow of new students through CPL and more advanced preparatory flight training programs remained the same since 2007? 

If either assumption is incorrect, the shortage is larger than 5,000/yr

Causes:  Multiple Factors that Increase Demand and Reduce Production

  • Outsourcing & Tourism

Business and industrial outsourcing has led to unprecedented expansion of air service in developing regions while other areas are growing their economies through air-fed tourism. The unexpected magnitude of this demand for new pilots is a prominent factor in the predicted pilot shortage.

  • 9/11

Prior to 911, the majority of the world’s new professional pilots received their formative training in U.S. flight schools. Following 911, U.S. flight training programs were crippled by industry layoffs, restrictions on training foreign pilots and general career uncertainties. While the annual production rates for both U.S. and international student pilots have made some recovery, U.S. pilot production remains well below pre-911 levels.

  • Global Health and Economic Challenges

Aspiring and employed pilots are justifiably discouraged when health issues like SARS and the H1N1 virus disrupt the growth of air transportation and their hopes for employment. But those issues pale in comparison to the career disruption caused by the fuel crisis and the global economic recession that has plagued the industry since 2008.

  • Training Costs

For a variety of reasons, the cost of high quality pre-employment pilot training courses has risen steadily over the past 15 years. Advances in the functions, features and fidelity of flight training devices and simulators were expected to stabilize or reduce course costs. Unfortunately, those reductions have not materialized and training costs have become prohibitively expensive for many candidates, thereby shrinking the pool of pilot candidates even further.

  • Lack of Training Standards

Because the industry has not defined a standard for the scope and depth of pre-employment pilot training courses, the preparedness of today’s flight school graduates to enter the industry varies widely. To make matters worse, pilot licensure standards have not kept pace with the needs of the industry, creating what is commonly referred to as the Pilot Preparedness Gap. The combined result of these two conditions makes estimates of pilot production inaccurate and the size of the predicted pilot shortage understated.

Industry Responses
Many major airline executives insist that the pilot shortage described above did not exist, and they are quick to dismiss concerns that a larger and more prolonged shortage is likely to occur within the next few years.

ICAO, IATA and PABC see things differently.

ICAO’s Dual Response: MPL and NGAP

  • MPL (Multi-crew Pilot License)

In 2002, ICAO launched its MPL initiative to create this new license in 2006 because the existing CPL licensure standards don't provide the pre-employment preparation needed for a professional flying career. The new MPL also includes an entirely new approach to delivering this training; an approach that may help achieve the production rates required to meet the global demand for new pilots.

  • NGAP (Next Generation Aviation Professional)

The NGAP Symposium conducted by ICAO in March 2010 was the first step in a multi-year project to address the issues that threaten the safe and timely growth of our global air transportation system. Those issues include the recruitment, selection, training, evaluation, supervision and regulatory oversight of the many various professionals needed to support this industry – including pilots. NGAP speakers from across the industry repeatedly delivered a message of concern that the industry and regulators must take steps to avert a shortage of well-prepared candidates in all skills areas.

IATA’s Response: The IATA Training and Qualification Initiative (ITQI)
In the process of working with ICAO on the development of MPL, the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) recognized that the industry needs an even broader approach to ensure the future availability of well-prepared candidates for our aviation workforce. This concern led to the creation of ITQI to address the recruitment, screening, funding, training and oversight of candidate airline pilots and maintenance technicians. See the following for further information on ITQI.    

PABC’s Response: The Global Professional Pilot Certification (PPC)
This website describes PABC’s view of the pilot shortage, its impact on the future safety and growth of air transportation, and our proposal to address those issues through the development of the Global PPC.