No Help For EU Pilot Shortage

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As in the U.S., a looming pilot shortage in Europe is on the horizon, but little is being done to fix it, according to a research paper published by AeroProfessional, an international aviation recruiting and placement firm. Europe will need to recruit and train about 95,000 pilots during the next 16 years to keep up with demand, according to Boeing's outlook. But AeroProfessional says pilots prefer to work outside of Europe and demand from Asia, Africa and the Middle East is siphoning off pilots.

Retention and barriers to recruiting a new generation of pilots mixed with high training costs, low pay and less-than-stellar working conditions among budget airlines are top concerns. Meanwhile, legacy and flag carriers feel lower pressure in filling pilot seats due to favorable salary and benefit packages offered to new recruits. Pilots having to pay for their type ratings or being drawn into pay-for-training schemes see little motivation to choose the career, says AeroProfessional. 

While business aviation might be an attractive option for lower-time pilots to gain experience, geographical restrictions and quality of life issues mixed with the need to obtain type ratings prove prohibitive to most, according to AeroProfessional. The paper further highlights similarities to the U.S. market, illustrating a need for more strategic recruitment planning, in addition to lowering the cost of training and implementation of innovative cadet programs. 

"In 2015, 80 percent of stakeholders attending the EASA safety conference agreed that there aren’t enough skilled pilots to meet future demand," the paper says. With the total number of commercial pilot licenses issued in Europe reduced by 31 percent between 2011 and 2015, the dwindling continues.

About 4000 fixed-wing CPLs and multi-engine certificates were issued in the EU during 2015, with the UK issuing the highest proportion at 1072. Despite this, 48 percent of UK certificates and 20 percent of all EU licenses were issued to non-residents with no plans to stay in Europe to work. The deficits show effect as 91 percent of applicants trained and licensed in 2015 had been gobbled up by a hungry market in 2016.

With demand growing at a rate current training capacity can’t satisfy, coupled with the added pressure of European pilots leaving for other markets, the outlook for the pilot shortage in the EU is far from bright. Stopping the outflow of both disgruntled pilots and unwilling retirees with skills and experience would be an effective quick fix for addressing the skills crisis, according to AeroProfessional. Getting the mandatory retirement age raised to mitigate demand would require regulatory changes.

The paper concludes with the suggestion to the industry that profitability and demand are both such that investing in pilot training doesn’t just make economic sense, it’s crucial for the survival of airlines in a competitive market.

Comments (5)

Mandatory retirement age of 67.. Here we come..!

Posted by: Tom O'Toole | May 24, 2018 12:47 PM    Report this comment

Do I hear an echo??? The issues raised in this article mirror what is supposed to be happening here except for the ATP requirement for US first officer candidates. Kind of puts a damper on the ATP requirement excuses considering EU airlines have the MPL certificates available to them.

Posted by: matthew wagner | May 24, 2018 12:50 PM    Report this comment

We are in a similar situation here. Although it is cheaper to flight train here and despite the fact that we have a healthy and experienced flight training core, it also holds an ROI suffering from anemia. For the same cost, my grandchildren can become teachers, lawyers or medical doctors. Scholarships from airlines and industry would help promote new-starts in all aviation careers as more pilots would generate more manufacturing of equipment, support services and personnel. Pay well and demand well. Pilot starting pay scales should equal that of FAA Air Traffic Controllers. Somebody do something! WWW.CVYAEP.COM Promoting new-starts in aviation since 2012.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | May 24, 2018 2:19 PM    Report this comment

Airlines, corporations with active flight departments will have to invest in the training market to ensure a steady flow of trained pilots.

The trucking industry has learned that lesson well. The most successful trucking companies subsidize or pay for in it's entirety, training new drivers in exchange for a contractual, mutual agreement which the driver guarantees several years of service with said company. Pay, benefit packages, sign on bonus's etc., are mutually worked out so the prospective driver knows what he will be paid during training, knows his pay scale once hired, and has a paid experienced mentor who rides with the new driver integrating them into the company's system. The companies who do not want to make that investment are revolving doors of employment with very little if any, driver retention.

The professional pilot world will have to make the same or similar commitment staring with an applicant as a student pilot, not waiting to pick off the next 1500hr newly minted ATP from Brand X flying school saddled up with $50-65K in debt.

The problem for all of this is the financially precarious positions the airlines operate in with just a hiccup of fuel prices, and said airline is BK or being absorbed by someone else who is only a few steps from bankruptcy themselves. To get and retain properly trained professional pilots will require an airline to invest themselves in the training market from solo to ATP. It will take a Vashon Ranger to a King Air in Delta livery as an example of training from student to ATP....with the sponsoring airline taking on the responsibility of training and retaining enough qualified piloting help.

Posted by: Jim Holdeman | May 25, 2018 9:45 AM    Report this comment

The anti-General Aviation attitude is coming back to haunt the airlines. Many of the airlines CEO's have expressed their discontent toward the little airplanes getting in the way of their big money makers.

The flying bus is very unattractive to a non-pilot. The requirements to become and to continue to be a button pusher in the sky just doesn't do it for most. If you are a personality that enjoys the idea of traveling for a profession why not operate trains, boats, buses, or trucks? They all pay about the same and require less investment.

The draw to flying is the freedom of manipulating the controls and going wherever you feel like going whenever you want. General Aviation fills the bill, landing on beaches, lakes, remote strips, seeing the sights and a good old $100 hamburger. General Aviation offers people with imagination an opportunity to make advancement in flying technology. Non-pilots want to fly back and forth to work, vacations and to go on adventures. They want an aircraft to be a tool that justifies it's existence and expense. They want Independence!

The politicians, airline management in conjunction with the FAA are doing their best to take the freedom of flying out of General Aviation. The "experts" on mass transportation have written uncountable papers on the uselessness of private vehicles. Mass transit is efficient and profitable. It keeps herd on the people and prevents them from wandering outside their designated areas. Private vehicles cause uncontrollable climate change and mass transit is the only way to save the planet.

Posted by: Klaus Marx | May 25, 2018 12:10 PM    Report this comment

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