Boeing Report Shows Growing Need For Pilots, Maintenance Techs (Corrected)


Boeing Global Services VP of commercial training solutions Chris Broom briefed journalists today (July 26) on staffing needs identified by the manufacturer’s just-released 20-year Pilot and Technician Outlook. Summing up the overriding message, he said, “If you know—or anyone you know knows—someone who wants to learn to fly, send them my way.”

Boeing projects a need for not just 602,000 pilots in the next two decades, but also 610,000 maintenance technicians and 899,000 cabin crew professionals. That totals a worldwide need for 2.1 million new aviation personnel between now and 2042. For the first time, the projected numbers do not include Russia or Central Asia, based on uncertainty over current sanctions.

The personnel needs are driven largely by projected demand for 41,170 new airliners in the same time period, 75 percent of them single-aisle aircraft, 18 percent widebodies, 5 percent regional jets and 2 percent freighters. Some 80 percent of the new aircraft will be replacing existing jets, with the remainder projected to be needed for expanding service.

At the same time, the ranks of all three employment sectors are impacted by retirements, in many cases accelerated by months of COVID-driven furloughs that led air crew members and maintenance professionals to early retirement.

Broom said the challenge is to “inspire and attract” new pilots and other aviation personnel. Finances are a big impediment to those who would aspire to an aviation career, particularly pilots. Government and industry are seeking to “expand the pipeline” with deferred loans, low-interest loans, and even scholarships. Broom said that one avenue to pursue is socioeconomic areas where young people are not likely to grow up knowing anyone who is a pilot.

He said, “Diversity isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s an effective way to expand the pipeline. When [women and young people from lower economic areas] look left when they get on an airplane, they need to see people who look like them.”

That said, he emphasized that detailed selection tools are critical in choosing candidates to sponsor, not only to the financial protection of the airline, but for the candidate’s well-being. He added that many airlines are launching their own flight academies, while also supporting youth programs, such as EAA’s Young Eagles, that bring aviation within the sight range of those who would never otherwise be exposed to the career possibilities.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Inspire someone to invest in a degree and then thousands of expensive flight hours just to be paid BELOW minimum wage for around a decade and THEN become the least senior pilot where any medical issue can waste the whole thing? Tell me how you “inspire” people into endentured servitude for the better part of their youth and their young adult life?

  2. If they really need people, the government and/or airlines should step up and pay for the required training. I am a college graduate who would love the opportunity to become a pilot. However, I cannot go from debt free making a salary to no income with $100k in debt. If the training was paid for until you’re making money with an airline (even a small amount), I would start training tomorrow. However, it’s not realistic to make that transition and continue to support myself.

    • True definition of a pilot ”shortage”. Problem is no US airline is willing to step up to pay to train their own pilots, since in the US there is no such thing as a pilot shortage, not in my lifetime.

  3. I find it interesting that Boeing is forecasting the need for so many pilots in 20 years when they, and other companies, are spending many millions of dollars to develop next-gen autonomous aircraft. Also, if the current pilot shortage is caused by the large number of pilots that took early retirement, has anyone explored asking them to come back as contract workers to alleviate the situation? I’m sure there are FAA rules that would complicate that idea, but the pilots are obviously qualified right now. Just a thought….

    • Highly unlikely any former airline pilot who took early retirement is going to be willing to return as a contract pilot. In most cases in pt121 that is not even legal. And those pilots would have to undergo at least requalification training, or redo initial indoc and sim training depending on how long they were away from flying. If I were in that situation I would definitely not return and would just enjoy fun flying and watching the airline CEO’s try to explain their way out of a situation they created themselves.