Our April blog series focuses on airplane and helicopter stories in the news. On the commercial pilot training side of the house, there is, of course, one story that has dominated headlines for months, both in the industry and mainstream press: when will commercial air travel return to pre-pandemic levels? Let's take a look at the latest insights.
For us as a flight school offering commercial pilot license training, the return of air travel brings the looming pilot shortage back into the spotlight. We know that a 12-18-month drop in air travel does nothing to change the massive shortfall in commercial pilots, with Boeing's projection of a 600,000 pilot gap over 20 years still holding true. In fact, as many analysts point out, the Covid drop is likely to make the pilot shortage worse, because more airline pilots have taken early retirement options during the downturn, and airlines have cut back on their own cadet training.
What that means is that those who start their commercial pilot license training now are likely to be entering a very hot job market by the time they've reached the 1,500 hours of flight time that most commercial airlines require. How hot? The OliverWyman study claims "a global pilot shortage will emerge in certain regions no later than 2023 and most probably before," with a gap of up to 50,000 pilots by 2025. Some regions will experience extreme pilot demand sooner than others; the US will be short 13,000 pilots by the end of 2023, and Asia Pacific will face the largest gap overall.
Of course, perception tends to override reality, and it can be hard for someone considering an investment of tens of thousands of dollars in commercial flight training to see past the fact that air travel hasn't yet recovered. But even if you prefer to take a wait-and-see approach, your wait is now over. Already in China, the commercial airline fleet is operating at 99%. In the US, domestic air travel on many vacation routes is already back to normal. And the consensus among analysts is that international routes will return in force by July 2021.
All of this points to not only a rosier future for a world gripped by the pandemic for far too long, but even rosier career prospects for those who take this opportunity to pursue their commercial pilot license training. Are you ready? We're saving a seat in the cockpit for you.