Pilot Shortage Eases A Little


In practical terms, the pilot shortage has eased somewhat, but there are a lot of twists and turns with the data according to a study by consulting firm Oliver Wyman. In a presentation to the Regional Aircraft Association annual meeting, reported by Travel Weekly, company partner Geoff Murray said the North American airline industry is short 14,300 pilots, but that’s down from 16,900 last year. But part of the reason for the shift is that so many regional airplanes have been parked.

Murray said mainline airlines have pretty much filled their pilot vacancies but they’ve done so at the expense of the regionals, which have had no choice but to cut flights and park airplanes. He said regional flights have dropped 36 percent since 2019 and restoring the previous levels of service would require another 6,000 pilots. There are hopeful signs in pilot training, however. Oliver Wyman expects 6,900 new ATPs to be qualified this year against 4,200 pilots who will retire.

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. The real news is that the pilot shortage is going to worsen until at least 2026. What data is the projected rise in new pilots based on? It only takes a few years for a new pilot to achieve an ATP certificate. So you can only project so far ahead from current flight school and university enrollment. After that, it’s just wishful thinking.

  2. With all due respect, what shortage? This article points out that the mainline airlines have pretty much filled their vacancies. Just because the regionals can’t find pilots doesn’t mean there is a shortage of pilots. This “shortage” nonsense is the same line I have heard since I got my Private certificate over 30 years ago. Maybe a shortage of pilots willing to deal with all of the crap that goes along with the regional pilot job. That does not mean there is a real shortage. Most of the regional’s “shortage” is due to the respective airlines training departments unable to keep up with company demand. Commercial pilots are a dime a dozen in this country. If there was a real shortage of pilots I would be getting all kinds of job offers!

  3. Assuming that airlines (and the aviation industry as a whole) believes in a free market, a shortage only occurs when the price of something (in this case pilot labor) falls below the equilibrium point where the supply and demand curves would meet. Rather than calling this a “pilot shortage” perhaps we should start calling this a “pilot pay shortage” or “pilot pay inadequacy.” What airlines want to do is artificially boost the supply of pilots so that those who truly want to be pilots will be forced to reduce their salary expectations and work for the terms that the airlines want.

    • Exactly. Although average pay is much increased from several years ago, the airlines (and especially the regionals) created the pilot shortage by paying peanuts for years.