ALPA, Industry Say Pilot Supply Is Stable


A new release from the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) notes that the U.S. pilot supply is stable with more than11,000 pilots certified in the past 12 months.

ALPA highlighted recently released FAA pilot-production data, indicating that the U.S. is consistently certifying a greater number of airline pilots on a monthly basis compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The news comes as industry experts and financial analysts agree that pilot demand has been met, and there is even a surplus of pilots as several airlines have scaled back hiring.

Executives at TD Cowen and Goldman Sachs have expressed optimism, indicating the industry is moving past its previous challenges. “The improved outlook vs. the introduction of the GS Pilot Supply & Demand model in December 2022 is primarily driven by higher-than-expected certificates issued (2022 and 2023 were both records) in addition to slower fleet growth and modestly lower-than-expected retirements,” according to Goldman Sachs.

Several regional airlines have noticed a shift in the environment with decreased attrition rates. Mesa Airlines CEO Jonathan Ornstein said, “There was a time when none of us could find first officers. Now I mean, I think we have close to 2,000 applicants for qualified first officers.” CommuteAir CEO Rick Hoefling echoed that statement. “We can hire first officers. I think almost every regional airline right now has a stack of first officers. The problem is building their time at the same time you’re attriting out captains at a pretty high rate in the industry. We went from a pilot shortage to a captain shortage now in the industry. So the pendulum is starting to move.”

Despite ongoing claims of a pilot shortage by special interest groups, ALPA maintains that while there were some initial backlogs post-COVID, the system is working and yielding a record number of pilots.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. Yep … the USAF thought that way, too. Now look at ’em. Don’t be so sure. Depending upon a “pendulum” is aka bad management.

  2. Hmm! On complacency. Viewing the current state of pilot supply as an excuse to scale back on recruitment and training efforts is shortsighted and risky. We should continue to prioritize attracting and training new pilots and support personnel, mechanics as an extension. This approach is essential to ensure the industry is well-prepared for an expected increase in demand as the market recovery progresses. Complacency now could threaten the industry’s ability to meet future needs.

  3. The recent uptick in Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certifications is a sign of good health for U.S. aviation. This increase, especially in the past couple of years, supports the Air Line Pilots Association’s (ALPA) positive outlook on pilot supply and demand balance. (2013 FAA Pilots Statistics TABLE 17)

    However, certifications tell only part of the story. To keep the pipeline strong, we must also look at the rate of *ATP retirements and the growing needs of the industry. It is essential to expand training programs, from new-starts, to ensure that we have enough pilots to meet demand, and we need to keep those already flying through competitive benefits and clear opportunities for advancement.

    In researching, a better data analysis (OliverWyman) can help us predict future supply and demand more accurately. And as always, we should be prepared for the unexpected, like another COVID type disruption.

    *And, could all this be related to the proposal of raising the mandatory retirement age to 67?

    • So long as the FAA maintains a mandatory retirement age of (fill in the blank), it should be very easy to know just how many new pilots will be needed to fill the retirement vacancies. Most pilots will continue to work until the feds say they must leave, so back up 5 years or so and look at the new people entering flight training and you should have a pretty good snapshot of where we stand. On the mechanic’s side, things are a little trickier since there is no mandatory age to walk away. Frankly, I consider the supply of mechanics to be a bigger and tougher issue than the pilots.

  4. Don’t believe anything ALPA says. They are only interested in increasing the member dues inflowing to their coffers. As significant as the pilot shortage is the technician shortage. The industry will be coming to a screeching halt when the mechanics are no longer on the ramp or in the hangar and shop.

  5. All very astute comments. Six months ago there was a pilot shortage. Now, six months later
    the pilot shortage is amazingly resolved and everything is working smoothly. APA and ALPA have suddenly reversed themselves. What no one mentions is that Boeing is under a lot of self inflicted scrutiny and not delivering narrow body airframes. Also, training departments are extremely busy as are check airman. There is only so much training that can be done in the 24/7 environment before training pools occur and no one wants to sit around and wait months to start training. The Air Force and Navy have had PTR problems for a many years and that is not easily resolved with the long commitments after winging and declining military budgets. Service members who don’t fly regularly are not happy campers. This is all truly about age 67 ie: politics. The irony is that this is coming down from people who work in jobs that have no review, continuing education or term limits.

  6. I’m not qualified to comment on airline pilot supplies (although my son flies for one of the big three) but as an active GA pilot for 60 years I do feel qualified to comment on the dearth of qualified A&P’s and IA’s. Our community is begging for them, as most of the new graduates are snapped up by the airlines. Our local FSDO has begged my IA (age 79) not to retire, as it would leave our area significantly short. All we can hope for is that demand will stimulate supply (and A&P/AI prices must rise). It will be difficult to keep even the airline pipeline full if one can’t get one’s GA aircraft maintained.

    • Good point, WBJ. Keeping trained mechanics and AIs at the GA level is a big problem. The airlines and corporate flight departments pay better and have more predictable hours. I have maintained for years that the FAA needs to develop a limited or restricted A&P license to allow GA aircraft owners to work on their own planes, if they are so inclined. They could demonstrate proficiency in their particular aircraft to an IA or other FAA examiner and could then do the bulk of their own maintenance, still under the final approval of an IA for the same issues as now required. But the odds of that happening are about the same as me winning the PowerBall tonight. 😑

    • I’m a long time ATP/CFI who went to a 147 school a couple years ago to get an A&P (graduated at pretty much the height of the post pandemic hiring boom) and I saw no airlines snapping up new A&Ps. No FBOs other than the one in the next hangar ever made any effort to recruit. There is simply not a huge demand for new grads. Just like airlines have too many FO applicants and not enough pilots with 121.436 time – everybody wants an A&P with a couple years experience.

      The only companies showing any recruiting effort were two non-union regional airlines.
      They were offering about $19 /hr. I point out to my 20-something classmates that the local school district is hiring bus drivers at $25/hr (30+ hrs/week and full health and dental benefits, retirement, etc.) and the only qualification is clean urine. All of the recent grads I know who work at an FBO make less than my friends who wait tables.

      Being an A&P is not a good career investment IMO. The amount of stuff you are responsible to know is enormous. For me, getting an A&P was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done (and I’ve done some hard stuff, I think). For what? Even after all the recent 30% wage increases, the “majors” start A&Ps at mid $30’s /hr and top out in the low $60’s /hr. Regionals are around 60% of that. FBOs pay less than regionals, and based on the grapevine, most offer poor health care and no retirement.

      Young people who like to work with their hands and don’t want to get a 4 year degree have a lot of other options these days, and I’d never recommend being a mechanic on light GA aircraft for a career. There’s some sweet spot for working at a major airline after paying your dues, but they are generally not hiring grads, even in a “boom”. If you can pass the A&P tests, you can do a lot of other things. An A&P is a skilled trade, and in my area at least, there’s a lot of apprentice options for electricians, HVAC, plumbing etc. that offer better training opportunities and compensation.
      My point being is it’s even worst than you think. Unlike pilots, there’s no $350k+ / yr dream job to work your way up to. For mechanics, there’s no reason you’d want to be drawn into the industry or stay in it.

  7. Follow the money. A union in negotiation with the companies that hire it’s members is never in a good bargaining position if there is a glut of available picket line crossers.

  8. There never has been nor will there ever be in my lifetime, a pilot shortage in the USA. Only a shortage of experienced pilots willing to work for nothing. This last “shortage” was due to the airlines inability to keep up with training. Even the Air Force pilot shortage is due to training, not a lack of bodies. Now for mechanics, that I do believe there is a shortage of. That could make GA flying that much more expense due to having to meet pay levels the airlines have.

  9. I really don’t care about what airlines share about their logistics.
    Since airlines have been hostile toward GA recently, I care even less.

  10. I still get my APA newsletter even though I’m retired, and almost every week they have a pic or the latests new hire class of about 30 new hires.
    Has nothing to do with the age 67 attempt.

  11. Then there is the RAA strongly disagreeing with ALPA on the pilot shortage issue. RAA argues that there is a pilot shortage, evidenced by the gap between the number of pilots major airlines hired and the number of new pilot certifications in 2023. They claim this shortage has led to parked planes, reduced flights in many airports, and even complete loss of air service in some communities.
    RAA accuses ALPA of manipulating information and using safety regulations to limit the number of new pilots entering the workforce, ultimately aiming to benefit their members’ wage bargaining position. They criticize ALPA’s lobbying efforts and urge policymakers to focus on solutions like removing mandatory pilot retirement age and increasing access to pilot training.

    Go to:

  12. Boom and bust, boom and bust. That is the aviation way of doing business since 1920. If it means fewer flight schools pushing out assembly line factory pilots, and more people getting involved in true stick and rudder flying, that’s good news. Too may get rich quick ops. And I totally agree in a wholistic view. The dearth of qualified A&P’s and IA is a greater issue than pilots if you step back from the cockpit view. That affects everyone in aviation, not just the airlines.

  13. GA flying is a rich man’s hobby. Raise the A&P wages to give those guys what they deserve to keep your butt safe.
    GA pilots can afford it if they can afford a plane, insurance, hangar/land, fuel, and mx.

    Stop this “we can’t increase the minimum wage”…

  14. The issue is not the Quantity of pilots but the Quality (experienced) of pilots.
    We can take a HS grad and in 18 months turn him/her into an ATP.
    The question is, “does this pilot have the experience required to carry 150-350 passengers safely?” “Does this pilot have the experience required to be a Part 121 Captain?”
    No amount of training hours can teach experience. You can’t download it or decree it. Experience as a professional airline pilot is only gained incrementally, over time, as a First Officer, and through consistent mentoring of experienced Captains.