By Russ Niles, Editor-in-Chief
A blue-chip organization of industry groups and businesses has collectively asked that the Government Accountability Office be directed to study what many regard as a serious looming pilot shortage. The group says a confluence of factors appears to be lining up that will make pilots in short supply. It wants the GAO to determine if a shortage actually will occur and, if so, study the mechanics of the shortage and estimate its impact not only on the aviation industry but the economy as a whole. "It is hoped that such a study will shed some light on this potentially devastating issue that can be considered by congressional leaders to better understand the extent of the problem as well as the potential ramifications to the industry, service to cities and jobs," the request, directed at the House Subcommittee on Aviation, says.
The stakeholders' group, which represents a Who's Who of aviation executives, clearly thinks the coming shortage is real. A retirement bubble, which encompasses those who extended their careers thanks to a 2007 law that pushed the airline pilot retirement age to 65, has now run its course and retirement rates are expected to accelerate. At the same time, student pilot starts are dropping, the military is cutting back on the number of pilots it trains and a new law has mandated that the FAA require all Part 121 pilots to have an air transport pilot (ATP) certificate. The group has laid out a multi-point outline of the questions and answers it's hoping the study will consider. "[The stakeholders] agree that an independent study, conducted by the GAO, could provide a better understanding of the potential for a shortage of pilots, the subsequent economic impact, the loss of service and jobs, and provide insight into opportunities that may mitigate these consequences."