Commercial Pilot Graduations Drop By Two-Thirds In Canada


A sharp decline in new pilot graduations combined with increased demand from a flurry of new airline startups is creating an incipient pilot shortage that appears to be creating concern in Canada. Since 2019, the number of new commercial pilot licenses issued has dropped from a relatively consistent 1,100 a year to less than 300 a year in 2021 and 2022, according to Transport Canada stats reported by CTV News. Transport Canada spokeswoman Sau Sau Li told the network labor shortages may cause “economic hardship” to airlines. Pilot shortages were cited by airlines as a factor in numerous mostly weather-related delays and cancellations over the Christmas holidays.

Li said the pandemic had a “significant impact” on staffing levels throughout aviation and the government has initiated programs to get training levels back in line. Tim Perry, who heads up the Canadian section of the Air Line Pilots Association, said a lot of young people chose other careers when they heard about mass layoffs and job insecurity caused by the pandemic. He also said he believes the numbers will come back.

Aviation consultant Robert Kokonis told CTV there needs to be an overhaul of flight training in Canada. The high cost of training and the low pay many new pilots get in their first jobs has been compounded by high inflation and higher interest rates. He said airlines will have to start funding training to ensure a steady supply “because the pilot shortage in this country is real, and it threatens to be a real drag on the Canadian economy.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Let’s see now, high cost of training, low pay. Do I hear an echo? No mention of an ATP requirement, oh I forgot, the Canadians don’t have one, they just follow ICAO requirements for SIC’s to be type rated. Canada is the only other country that even comes close to a GA industry like the US. Even the calls for Canada’s airlines to start paying for training mirrors the US. Kind of kills the argument on the ATP requirement in the US.

    • Matt I’m not sure what you mean by no ATP requirement. A Commercial license only gives you PIC capability up to 12,500 lbs. in Canada. SIC weight limits are a little higher but unless you want to be an FO in a Q-400 for the rest of your life, you’ll need an ATP.

      You’re right that most Canadian Aviation Regs overlap with U.S.

      • Sorry, I should have been more specific. I was referring to SIC’s starting out in regional jobs. As far as I know Canada does not require an ATP to start out as a SIC like the US now does.

  2. The average starting salary in a Canadian regional is about 1/2 of the average US regional. Airline executives figure that SJS will let them fill their cockpits with 250 hour wannabes while paying McDonalds burger flippers wages.

    Unfortunately for them the word is getting out and fewer young pilots are drinking the cool aid. Of course paying pilots decent wages would dent C suite bonuses so they will avoid the obvious solution until it too late.

    Sadly too many regional Captains have to fly both sides of the cockpit. Sooner or later this penny wise, pound foolish approach will end very badly…

  3. So there are fewer graduates in Canada, and another story in this issue notes a shortage of airplanes, yet there is a “flurry of new airline startups”. Makes sense.

  4. I live in Canada, am a low-time pilot, and can confirm there is no pilot shortage. Uninformed media outlets have been posting about a pilot shortage since before I entered the industry in 2006 and they’re still sounding like a broken record. Sure, the ramp wait time is definitely reduced from what it was in 2009 (it was 2.5 years at that time), but there’s no shortage. I know several low-time pilots who are not working as pilots because they haven’t found a pilot position. These shortage articles make me chuckle.