This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

March 9, 2016

Pilot Shortage Revisited

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), passenger traffic growth is expected to double to over seven billion people over the next two decades. The airlines can meet that demand, as long as they have enough pilots to fly the required aircraft. Unless there is a major disruptive change, like the acceptance of pilotless aircraft, projections call for a critical shortage of pilots. (Back in September 22, 2010, we first covered this important topic.)

Boeing's estimates call for significant growth
Based on the expected increase in passenger traffic and the need for newer aircraft, the aircraft manufacturer Boeing has made its own projections. According to Boeing's estimates, over the next twenty years, the commercial aviation industry will need more than 550,000 new pilots to meet consumer demand.

The Asia Pacific region will enjoy the greatest expansion
Almost half of that growth will be in the Asia Pacific region where airlines will feel the potential pilot shortage most acutely. Over the next two decades, as older pilots retire and passenger demand increases, North America and Europe will follow Asia Pacific in their requirements for new aviators.

India and China will be see the most critical shortages
Not surprisingly, the fast-growing economies of India and China have generated (and will generate) the greatest needs. As these formerly third world countries evolve their aviation markets, the demand will often exceed the supply.

Fewer pilot training programs outside of North America and Europe
Outside of North America and Europe, there are fewer schools to train pilots. Moreover, a number of Asia Pacific carriers hire western pilots to supplement their cadre of locally-trained ones.

Not just about retirements
Though there will be a tremendous uptick in retirements in the near-term future, especially in North America, the pilot shortage is not just about retirements. With the high cost of training and certification and no loan forgiveness as in some other professions, the financial and time barriers to entry are daunting for many young people. The industry jobs are also in competition with other career opportunities offering greater pay and benefits.

A Type 2 Wildcard looms
A Type 2 Wildcard is one that few people are thinking about and yet has a high probability of happening. Once driverless cars are widely accepted, can pilotless aircraft be far behind? Expect the cargo carriers of UPS and FedEx to begin experimenting with pilotless aircraft within the next 10 years. This development will lessen the pilot shortage, as more pilots are freed up to fly passenger flights. Ultimately, all flights will be pilotless, however that shift will take decades.


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