Pilot Shortage: Recruiting From The Entire Pool


“At United, we’re convinced that the root of the problem is that it costs over $100,000 and takes five or more years to obtain all the training to become eligible to fly for a major airline,” said Scott Kirby, CEO at United Airlines in a recently published opinion piece titled “The truth about the pilot shortage.”

Well, that is pretty rich—pardon the pun—for someone who chose not to become an airline pilot despite receiving free flight training and a Bachelor degree when he joined the U.S. Air Force in the late 1980s. The military service pathway is still available today and it is now opened to women as well. Except for nepotism, it continues to be the most reliable way to get a pilot resume at the top of the pile without accumulating debt.

Learning to fly is not cheap—and never was. However, the $100,000 price tag Kirby cites was first floated more than a decade ago. Apparently, numbers pulled out of thin air are inflation proof. Interestingly, the $100K number is higher than United’s own tuition fee at the newly minted United Aviate Academy. For a cool $89,000, 10 months of training, 18 months “building hours” with industry partners, and two years at one of its regional airline partners, United promises candidates to be at the top of the priority list when a position as First Officer opens up. No timeline on that.

And there lies the root cause of our recruiting troubles. Pay your money, commit to years of training and low pay employment, and you may or may not hit the jackpot. It is not an investment; it is a high-stakes gamble.

Compare that to the medical field. It takes hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition fees, eight years of academic education, and three to seven years of residency with low pay and lousy shifts before doctors-to-be can become fully fledged doctors.

Yet, this STEM occupation yielding wages comparable to piloting for a major airline attracts so many people that med school selection committees turn down 60 percent of all applicants (half of them women) annually. Why? The industry only trains the people it needs according to forecast. In other words, if you get accepted into med school and make it through, you will win the jackpot.

Likewise, many countries use a controlled pathway to commercial pilot training to match graduations to national needs. Here, the FAA issues around 6000 original ATP certificates annually regardless of the job market. Our reputation for taking the money and squashing the “dream” is well-deserved and a repellent.

The rigid seniority system that allows a money-happy Captain to turn into a starving Relief First Officer following a few bad senior management decisions is not helping either. Until we improve the probability for a positive return-on-investment, potential candidates will continue to steer away no matter how loud we scream “pilot shortage,” how many scholarships we offer, and how cheap we make the training.

Kirby touches on an additional recruiting challenge, diversity. “Only 19.6 percent of United’s pilots are women or people of color,” he says. What he cleverly avoids saying is that less than 7 percent of United’s pilots are women. By wrapping up men of color with women percentages, it doesn’t look that bad. That is until you realize that there are approximately 35 million American men of color (11 percent of the population) versus 167 million American women of all races (51 percent of the population).

And United is not really working at closing the gender gap. Its much-publicized intention to balance recruitment using a 50 percent diversity intake does not reflect the composition of the American population. Women will have to share the stated 50 percent diversity quota with men of color. Why?

An Army research published in 2014 found that flight crews with at least one woman on board have fewer crashes. You’d think that such factual data would drive a safety-obsessed industry to engage and recruit women as a priority. The reluctance to do so is grounded in our history and existing workforce.

Although men of color traditionally faced hiring discrimination in the airlines, women were simply “not allowed to apply” until the mid-1970s. The corporate culture has not changed much since Richard J. Ferris, UAL CEO at the time, famously declared in spite, “It is now possible for a flight attendant to get a pilot pregnant,” after losing yet another hiring discrimination lawsuit. Most airlines still do not recognize or celebrate the March 8 anniversary of the world’s first female pilot license.

What has changed is who we need to attract. According to recent research, two-thirds of millennials still think it is easier for men to get ahead. By the same percentage, they say that needs to change. The very social fabric of our industry is a repellent for them. The time has come to deal with it if we want to improve our attractiveness.

Mireille Goyer is a passionate aviation enthusiast, an airline transport pilot, a training expert, an author and an award-winning diversity and inclusion advocate. She is president of the Institute for Women of Aviation Worldwide.The 12th annual edition of Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week (WOAW) takes place March 7-13, 2022. The week serves as a call to address gender imbalance in the air and space industry.

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    • The FAA already decides how many air traffic controllers are recruited and trained. All branches of the U.S. military do adjust intake as needed as well. It is hardly a novel concept.
      This being said, what I actually suggest is addressing return-on-training-investment. Adjusting intakes is only one option but there are many others. For example, our industry could work on establishing “equivalence” to an airline pilot education on the job market.
      For as long as I have been in this industry, we have been dangling carrots in front of many wide-eye men and women (as the recent United offer does) and leaving them with debts and nowhere to turn when the reward does not materialize. Insiders always knew that. With the internet, everyone does. We can no longer get away with it. We need to address, not dismiss it.

  1. “Pay your money, commit to years of training and low pay employment, and you may or may not hit the jackpot. It is not an investment; it is a high-stakes gamble.”

    Seems unfair to use ‘jackpot’ as the motivator. With necessary passion for the industry and flight, over time one finds out all about it and one’s self and therefore will reveal one’s own ‘jackpot’ of reward, which maybe turns out entirely different from the original goal. In an industry changing in so many ways, we need people who are not singularly focused but flexible and creatively driven toward their own goals, imho.

    “The very social fabric of our industry is a repellent for them (millennials). The time has come to deal with it if we want to improve our attractiveness.”

    My millennial son and what I know of his fellow cohorts is they have no interest at all in changing the social fabric of anything. They are equipped with a different attitude on work, prefer creativity and use technology and their generational indifference to race, status, occupation or historical work ways to forge new and more suitable ways to work for their futures.

    These are huge changes in consciousness that need time to unfold, the ‘repellent social fabric’ will eventually dry up on its own, and if more women find themselves in hangars turning wrenches or cabins turning switches that will be what it is then, whatever percentage to males it makes, right? Everybody will be fine.

  2. I teach ESL and I am going to use this as an example of fallacies.
    “Well, that is pretty rich—pardon the pun—for someone who chose not to become an airline pilot despite receiving free flight training and a Bachelor degree when he joined the U.S. Air Force in the late 1980s” – I’m not sure why this attack has anything to do with the argument. According to an interview, he washed out early in the basic intro flying that all cadets get: “As an Air Force Academy cadet in the late 1980s, future United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby became aware he would never fly for the Air Force when he was asked by an instructor to close his eyes and fly straight and level in an F-4 over the Gulf of Mexico.” Yes, he got a BS in Comp Sci from the AF academy, but no academy graduate I ever met would say they got it for “free”. This attack seems unfounded.

    The mid-70s were 50 years ago. You say “The corporate culture has not changed much since” please tell me what real data you base that on, and please connect that somehow with today.

    You take issue with the $100k cost number but don’t give your own estimate or why this number is invalid. You point to the United Academy cost of $89k, but that is not anywhere near the cost to be an airline pilot – it’s just to get you to the Comm-ME level, nowhere near the experience needed for the ATP. You still need to either buy 1200 hours at $150/hr or spend two years instructing, working for nothing. That’s a huge cost either way.

    ” two-thirds of millennials still think it is easier for men to get ahead.” Your “recent” research is 10 years ago and it does not actually say what you said it does. Even if it did, what does that have to do with earning an ATP? My flight school will take any human who can shell out $170/hr to fly in a Nixon-era spam can and smell me. We are currently begging to take any gender of CFI who is more/less sober with a faint pulse who is willing to work for $26/hr. Last I heard, airlines are taking anyone who has the hours (trust me, if they will give me an class slot, they’ll take anyone).
    Last I checked, it’s a regimented process from 14 CFR that any idiot of any gender with money to waste can get started on. Getting a PPL, Inst, Comm, CFI, instructing, multi, MEI, etc. is a long road that only a fool like me would sign on for, but I don’t see where this is unfairly advantaging men, what makes you say that? As the old joke goes, invest the price of a condo in your training to make less than the Chick Fil A manager. There is no shortcut for men that I’m aware of, it’s just a long slog that very few people are interested in it of any gender.
    The fact is no one is interested in aviation generally, and no current or retired airline pilot I know recommends the career. Even retired ones just tell me stories of how they got robbed of their pension or how the seniority list in the merger screwed them over and they had to work Thanksgiving.

    There are plenty of talented women, as you explain, they just chose a more sensible career path. I took my cousin me flying who is much smarter than me. I suggested flying as a great career for a motivated women and offered to pay for everything, but she had zero interest. Fast forward, she just finished a MS in microbiology. She chose well. My initial CFI was/is the best, she’s got an ATP but has zero interest flying an RJ again. Who would? My former F-16 female friend said unless she goes Mach 2, she is done with flying and just going to sell real estate and have another child. She can take her daughter to ballet and makes more than a 787 captain. Smart women are smarter than men since they make better career choices.
    I notice the author has an ATP but no types, indicating she is a woman who is well qualified but chooses not to work at an airline. So women see the same thing as many men with ATPs, there’s a better career elsewhere.
    I volunteer with Civil Air Patrol, and my unit’s cadets are all of color and a sizeable female participation. CAP will pay for several flight lessons and also offers a full zero-to-solo camp kids can apply to, but no one ever goes past Lesson 1. One look at our 172 which is older than their parents and they have zero interest in learning to fly, even for free. Compared to GTA V, the real world is nowhere as interesting as the virtual world.

    “Likewise, many countries use a controlled pathway to commercial pilot training to match graduations to national needs. ” – Most countries have a national carrier and they pick a dozen high school kids to send to Florida for three years and that is the only way to be a pilot. Those are all the pilots. Most countries only have a few thousand ATPs (India 17k, UK – 10k, France 5k). Is this what your plan is? There are actually plenty of ATPs in the US (150k) but like me and you, many chose to do something else. Blame the airlines for their regional airline’s poor pay and working conditions.

    What study suggest women pilots are safer? A quick google search does not seem to support that assertion. Although a small portion of the pilot population, women and people of color have been involved in a percentage of airline accidents in the past 15 years well beyond their representation. Off the top of my head
    FedEx Express Flight 630
    Colgan Air Flight 3407
    Atlas Air Flight 3591
    UPS Airlines Flight 1354
    Colgan Air Flight 3407 – The cause of the 1500 hr

    Again, the dozen female pilots I know are all good ones, so I am not suggesting women are not capable. But in several of these accident investigations the dockets show records of strong internal HR pressure on check pilots to keep some candidates in the pipeline when it’s clear the usually would wash them out if they were in the “traditional” pilot demo

    • I do remember those crashes, and don’t forget ValuJet Flt 592… it wasn’t the oxygen canisters (I know this first hand) and yes, had she took control of the situation she had several airports to choose from instead of the Everglades.

    • I don’t know why 1200 hrs of instructing in a Cessna 172 makes for a good airline pilot….
      Citizens from other nations get their commercial here, and go home to fly 737s.

    • Of the top of my head, I can come up with an endless list of all-male crews crashing aircraft. I can also come a list gender-balanced flight crew saving the day. However, I cannot think of a single airline with an all-female flight crew although all-female flight take place every day since the late 1980s.
      Are you suggesting that the accident statistics compiled by the U.S. Army are false? Here is the story about their research: https://time.com/8404/army-women-helicopter-pilots/

  3. MG, thank you for your perspective. I think that the US professional pilot pipeline is influenced by quite a few forces that seem a bit glossed over in your (brief) editorial. First, 121 carries are extensively unionized, and that affects flow into the companies, working conditions, and carrier flexibility on essentially all matters. Second, merely being a pilot, legal to fly on a give day, is a heavily regulated … medical certification alone is a huge issue and one that, for a professional pilot, has real economic implications. Pilots can lose their livelihood quite easily, and have a rough time getting it back. No need to rehash the non-scientific basis of medical certification generally here, but let’s just agree that the system, process, and embedded medical assumptions isn’t ideal, well rooted in data, or fair. But working in the medical certification system is a reality, and one that is not particularly appealing to some. And, third, the road to solid 121 position is long and uncertain. All that together is not particularly appealing to some/many candidates.

    Also, the regulations and unions distort the labor pool and labor availability/interest. The last thing the industry needs is more regulation and an attempt to centralize labor pool decisions. To the contrary, all the lack of interest by currently certified pilots pool is beneficial to the industry … will drive employers to change … change compensation, schedules, etc. to attract talent. Heck, everyone who opts out of 121 is helping those who do to be better compensated and have better working conditions. The scarcity of pilot 121 candidates reflects holistically on all these strands … maybe some deregulation, better pay and schedules would shift interest. Time will tell.

    • I did touch on that briefly by pointing out that a money-happy Captain can turn into a starving First Officer after a few bad senior management decisions. When we speak about “the best”, we often conveniently forget that seniority systems do not use talent as the key measurement for advancement.

  4. This is an odd use of statistics and costs, over generations of time. It read as an author upset to not get the MilitaryAcademy/Military pilot/Airline career.

    I get that, if the case- I let that go by 17. I fell back to ROTC/near 0 pilot production years/Masters/Aircraft Mx Officer 3 years/late rated pilot 10 years/Reserves/Airlines with Reserves another 11 years path, so far.

    I meet folks that don’t complete “their” flying path, they all have their reason.

    Having flown and flying with women and minorites in both the military and 121- I agree there are not enough. Heck, my pediatrician was a Tuskegee Airman B-25 pilot and one of my earliest sparks.

    It is not a smart career, on paper and by design will not be. Aviation heats up slow and cools off by the time you read yesterday’s news.

    Its legal Ponzi scheme pays out late and at the top of the pyramid. It has extra risk- it is actually difficult to master, requires a medical, recurring study and training and examination and clean living. It is quite expensive in time, money and sacrifice. It ranks high in stress careers behind first responders, doctors and upper executives.

    It can be a lucky one when you look back in retirement and only those lucky few get too much focus- years, hours and dollars. The above is the problem, and I don’t see it being unwound.

    The scheme works because those in back and up front don’t want folks up front that are not determined to get up in the front facing window seats despite all this. There is not a shortage of pilots or production, but there are now more near retirement than in the active hiring pool.

    Oil just got peaky, again, as it has before. That was yesterdays’ news, again.

  5. Oh. When the headline said “Pilot Shortage,” I thought it was referring to my getting shorter in my old age.

    Never mind.

  6. Excellent comments above echoing my sentiments regarding Ms Goyer’s article. The overall tone of her perspective seems to lean toward some sort of affirmative action solution to the pilot shortage. This country has had a long history of failure when affirmative action principles are employed for employment shortage fulfilment. Her article assumes that there are serious discrimination practices against women in particular and people of color close behind when it involves aviation as a whole and pilot’s in particular.

    To become a professional pilot requires a huge investment of time and money, fueled by a passion for mastering skills in a 3D environment that initially is foreign to most, if not all human beings. And as other have already eloquently said, all of that investment does not guarantee the commercial pilot in command job. The path to becoming a professional pilot demands enduring years of low pay once qualified as an ATP. Plus, once in the left seat of an airliner does not guarantee a long career with the currently employed airline. Covid, $100+ barrel of oil, wars, airline financial miss-management, Boeing, or a myriad of other influences can mean sudden unemployment or vanishing retirement benefits. Ms Goyer is well aware of that, I am sure as an airline pilot.

    Considering all of the above, I believe the single most reason for the lack of professional pilots is most people do not like to fly. There has been an almost consistent percentage of the population that gain any kind of pilot’s license, recreational or professional. Likewise, the percentage of women and people of color who have become pilots, recreationally or otherwise, has been equally consistent. These percentages have not changed much after over 2+ million Young Eagle flights, decades of well attended airshows all over the planet, influencers such as Ms Goyer and various women in aviation initiatives, focus groups, job fairs, and alphabet organization promotions especially over the past three decades.

    Those who love to fly are willing to jump through all the hoops to become pilots. Those who love to fly so much that they want to endure the regulatory gauntlet to the perceived pot-of-gold, coveted, left seat of an airliner, are even a smaller minority of those who have already developed a passion for flying enough to gain some sort of pilot’s license. So, it is less of a problem of discriminations than most folks simply don’t like to fly, regardless of gender or race. I cannot remember the last person I have talked to who says they have always had a desire to fly. Most have said flat out they hate flying as a whole and endure it as a method to get to a destination…white knuckled or anesthetized to overcome the white knuckled experience.

    For those who do have some sort of curiosity about flying have but essentially three choices to scratch that rare itch. Obtain some sort of flight simulator software/hardware for home/cell phone use which cannot duplicate the 3 dimensional aspect of flying. Get aboard an commercial airliner of various sizes available to just about anyone with a good credit card, or go to a local airport and get introduced to flying in a 40+ year old average light plane. Option number one does not duplicate the sensation of flying option number two and three. In most cases actual flying scares most including the ones who think they have become budding pilots as they double thumb their cell phone or manipulate a joystick attached to the home PC or X-Box.

    To me, aviation has always been an endeavor that seems to have been one of the first avocations to bridge racial and gender discriminations faster and longer that more mainstream employment has. My flight instructor is a woman. She is in the Illinois aviation Hall of Fame. She has been involved in many aspects of aviation including aerobatic competition since the early 70’s. She never ranted that her womanhood was a barrier to participating in aviation. Never once do I recall her wanting to fly professionally as an airline captain. I have never heard Julie Clark rail on white male privilege in her career as a airshow pilot or captain of an airliner. Likewise, Patty Wagstaff seems to be satisfied with her career path without becoming an airline captain. Never have I heard her say, the deck was stacked against her because of her gender. All of us have had to endure including overcoming discriminations of various varieties. Some more than others. I have too. But for those who have a passion for whatever they do, overcoming those discriminations drove them to develop a dogged determination to achieve their goal.

    I love to fly, own an airplane, and have an A&P license. However, I make my living outside of aviation because it pays better and has more opportunity for stable employment. I have made a living in aviation. But it never compared to employment outside of it. So, I choose to enjoy my passion for all things with wings that fly outside of professional flying. I am an avid promoter of aviation including employment within aviation. But that promotion has to be done with truth including the facts of the career path within aviation as a pilot only after the candidate has confirmed they actually like and want to fly.

    Aviation is not a fascinating curiosity anymore. Airplanes are not a foreign object to most. Flying is. My assessment is most people don’t want to fly and airplanes are simply a means to an end. Those who choose to fly and actually get a license to do so, have been a consistent percentage of the population since 1903. I am thankful I have been bitten by the “bug” and enjoy what most folks don’t.

    • April will be 28 years of part 121 flying for me. Never furloughed, never missed a paycheck. I’m sure there are a few better paying jobs outside of aviation but I’m quite content with 300k a year and 17 days off a month.

  7. Placating is a good thing. But “consistent percentage of the population” is incorrect. The percentage has declined.

  8. Seems to me it’s less about the pay than often claimed. The unpredictability has to be up there. The obviously insane politics of the job are over the top. Over regulation and unionization cannot be helping. I don’t pretend to know how to fix it.

    Funny thing, my biological family turns out to be all airline employees, but I didn’t learn that until recently. I do know know I always had the pilot bug, and maybe would have gone that path with guidance. From the outside looking in though, it looked like a really bad idea to become an airline pilot. Even GA eventually got to the point that I’m constantly aggravated by the industry and government.

  9. Truth is… the job of an airline pilot isn’t glamorous, and kind of S#cks… continuous travel living out of a bag, that usually ends marriages.
    There are many other jobs that don’t cost anywhere near the cost in time and money a pilot must spend, and get paid far more… As a bonus, you could lose any chance of being a pilot during or after your training for many reasons from health to someone deciding you can’t fly the way they like… or you just don’t have the time or money for the one thousand five hundred Cessna 172 hours required to get an ATP… I still don’t get how 1500 hrs in a Cessna makes a good ATP candidate, but public panic when a female first officer in an ATR crashed in icing conditions with just over 250 hrs… and idiot decisions by the FAA made that happen. Yea, the hr qualification for ATP is super silly and likely more dangerous than the old 250 hr first officers.

    • Actually you’re wrong about most of that. Having flown as a Beech 1900 Captain with some of those 250 hour wonders they were quite pathetic. 250 hours just doesn’t give you enough exposure to real world problems. And btw it was a Dash-8 not an ATR.

    • I agree with Hugh completely. One reason I don’t instruct at my company is that I got tired of having to deal with training 250hr wonders items that should have been learned at the private pilot level.

    • If I recall well, it was a panic male captain who was at the controls and pulled the aircraft into a stall.

  10. What a whiny-ass article full of incorrect assumptions and juggled statistics. Starting in 1988 it cost me roughly 3000k and six years of toil as a cfi, freight/check pilot, jump pilot, banner tow pilot and even a gig flying a Beech 18 full of dynamite to a mine every week. My first part 121 gig was as a first officer on an ATR42 for $12.83/Hr. Even back then I felt like I hit a home run because I knew it would lead to where I am now. If people don’t have the ability to see where hard work can lead than they’re just not hooked up right and truly deserve to be miserable as the author of this article obviously is.

  11. What a bunch of crap. Holy moley, I slogged through her entire whining article, so I feel like I should get a medal of some sort. If you want to read what AFFIRMATIVE ACTION causes, read Thomas Sowell’s book “Affirmative Action Around The World.” Very, very interesting. After reading that, and re-reading it, I am convinced that when affirmative action is used, there is always a backlash, a negative consequence. Like what? Like the civil war in Sri Lanka. Didn’t know about the cause of that little conflict? Me either, until I read his book. Thomas Sowell is a Black man, by the way. He hates all this racial talk going on, all this talk about how “people of color” have it bad, etc. He makes such good points–like how, where PERFORMANCE is measured, like in the NFL, the NBA, there is no racial quota, no affirmative action hiring. The best person gets the job.

    Women? They can work wherever they want, don’t give me that crap about “since only 7% of pilots are women, there must be discrimination.” Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha!

    • You hit the nail on the head. No one is holding anyone back these days relative to gender or race. We are a nation divided by whining snowflakes with a personal agenda. No Hard work ethic and having the notion that the world owes me something more than the next person because I am colored, female, LBQTG, is killing this country. We are on the downhill slide. The mentality of the author of this article confirms it.

  12. This quote from Jim Holdeman basically sys it. “Aviation is not a fascinating curiosity anymore. Airplanes are not a foreign object to most. Flying is. My assessment is most people don’t want to fly and airplanes are simply a means to an end. Those who choose to fly and actually get a license to do so, have been a consistent percentage of the population since 1903. I am thankful I have been bitten by the “bug” and enjoy what most folks don’t.” No young person now looks at a plane as a magic device, mysterious, able to take you up into an experience only few have ever enjoyed. A machine to test your skills with every landing. No. It’s just a transportation machine. For them, $100K plus and five or more years of prep to sit in a transportation machine and monitor the automation systems, while their life is disrupted by required attendance at “work”, not for them. However, for me, high school, 1950s, the magic I saw with aviation, the draw it had for me, I would have paid any amount to do it….and frequently did. The percentage of the younger population that “want ” to fly an airplane, few and far between now.

    • Mr. Anderson,
      I agree with your comments. How aviation as a career interfaces with society has changed. Regardless of the analytics of return on investment and the associated risk of pursuing an aviation career, the people that I have enjoyed flying with the most over the last 40 years are those pilots, of any flavour, that are in the seat next to me because the love it.
      Doug Leamon

  13. Most people who are homeless are men. Most victims of violent crime are men. Most people in prison are men. Most people who commit suicide are men. Most people who die in wars are men. The most dangerous jobs are performed by men. More men die on the job than women. More men work outdoors.

    Where are the diversity and inclusion advocates when it comes to the most hazardous, dangerous and laborious jobs?

    • Naturally the only jobs that deserve “diversity and inclusion” are the prestigious ones. No one is trying to get more women into bricklaying or roofing. I doubt anyone cares about the color of the person who picks up their trash every 6am…
      No, the fact is that women are given a leg up in almost every way in aviation. My sister was able to apply for two dozen scholarships for flight training, of which I was barred from all but two.
      Women just tend to choose different careers than men, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s called freedom. On average, men pick jobs that are hands-on, object-oriented, and more physical. Women are more likely to pick jobs that are people-oriented or more creative.

  14. IF you are riding in the back of the airplane, do you want your pilot selected on the basis of gender, race, religion, “economically deprived”, “opportunity grants”–or would you rather they were selected as “Best candidate for the job?”

    Odd, that we spend all of this time to “include” candidates based on these criteria–rather than the absolute best candidate.

    Has anyone ever considered that every time you let someone else “jump to the front of the line”–those who may be BETTER candidates are pushed back?

    As the old saying goes–“It’s hard to average UP.”

    I’m on a State organization Board that selects aviation scholarship winners. All too often, the “victim card” is played by applicants. GOOD candidates persevere DESPITE CIRCUMSTANCES–THEY go to the FRONT OF THE LINE!

    • Thank you for committing to be fair and impartial when selecting scholarship recipients. Not everyone in government does that.

  15. A while back, I probably would’ve agreed with some other posters here that this article was a load of crap. I’m vehemently opposed to affirmative action and loathe political correctness and all the woke garbage in recent years. However, I spoke with my sister about this recently. She’s a CFI/CFII/MEI and has almost 3,000 hours. She is in line with me politically. She lives in Texas and has applied for jobs there and elsewhere. She’s a hard worker and a good person.

    We discussed this topic recently, and she told me that there is definitely a “good ol’ boys club” in aviation (i.e., white men). Someone she works with is Brazilian and she said he has had a hard time finding work flying, too. My sister has applied for jobs for which she was well-qualified, and was just told they’d let her know, but was never contacted again. After talking to her, I have no doubt that the hiring situation in aviation isn’t fair. Although I would’ve left similar comments to others here previously, I now would say that the criticism isn’t fair, either, but that the author has a legitimate complaint.

    • It’s kinda like in baseball, basketball, hockey now, red tails then, and other areas. Qualified individuals need to be allowed to get in line, then let the filtering begin. I would think that no one wants an incompetent at the helm. Mind over pigment or gender.

    • At the risk of being REALLY politically incorrect (for stating a fact) and/or being ‘Cancelled’ on AvWeb, if I were hiring pilots, I would favor men and, possibly post-menopausal older women who had proven themselves. I say this not because I hate women, but because there is a major physiological difference with women that can negatively affect job performance/attendance (on its face) or job safety (in subtle ways). And that is the menstrual cycle – which President Trump got into trouble for broaching.

      Look, when I was growing up, one of my sisters had debilitating cramps every month. In her case, she had to stay in bed for two days every month.

      And my mom used to become especially emotional during her time of the month. (Crying for no apparent reason.)

      I’ve never been married, so I can’t say from personal experience. But I’m sure the married men can tell their stories about their wives acting crazy during the cycle. (“Everybody Loves Raymond” did an episode about it. It was funny because it’s true.)

      Not all women have it that bad. And it might change/diminish over time. But if I were hiring woman pilots, I don’t know in advance how her attendance will be. (And I am totally ignoring that she might become pregnant and I lose an employee for a while. Something that I don’t have to worry about with men. (Until our recent Wokeness, anyway.)) And I wouldn’t have to worry about an occasional emotional basket case flying passengers around.

      And now I’ll really get myself in trouble: Even if menstruation wasn’t an issue (post-menopausal woman), men and women think differently. I built a Glasair with a woman engineer. My airplane partner had designed the Flight Management System for the Boeing 777, and was famous in ARINC circles. I thought that it would be fun building an airplane with an intelligent woman. (As Henry Higgins said (in “My Fair Lady”), “Why can’t a woman think like a man?”) Oh, the stories I could tell.

      Ever seen a woman engineer cry during a Design Review, when others (usually men) pick apart their “baby”?

      I joke that I can hear a slight miss in an engine when we fly. She can’t. But she can hear a baby cry from a mile away. I can’t.

      Even God hints at the differences between men and women when it comes to decision makers. (Hint: it’s a curse.) See Isaiah 3:12.

    • Where did she apply? It’s normal in any field to have more applicants than job openings. You can’t just assume she was discriminated against just because she wasn’t called back. I’ve applied to lots of jobs that never called me back. That’s life. No one owes me anything.

  16. As a former Pt. 121 pilot myself, there is one huge factor that all of these pilot shortage articles miss: quality of life. When you’re gone from home for half of each month, miss countless birthdays, holidays, & anniversaries, don’t get to have meals with family, don’t get to tuck your kids in bed each night and generally miss half of their childhood, it takes a huge toll on you. There’s a reason for the massively high divorce rate among airline crew members.

    The “jackpot” just wasn’t worth it to me and my family. I’ll take the lower pay and trade it for being able to be with my family and watch my children grow up. Yes, the financial cost to get into aviation is the biggest hindrance, but quality of life is a very close second. Until the industry comes to realize this, there will always be a problem finding enough people to fly their airplanes.

  17. Wow, just wow Mireille Goyer. Let’s not let facts get in the way of a good diatribe! Your version
    of the industry, United Airlines, and Scott Kirby are slanted at best and purposely or
    intentionally inaccurate at worst.
    It’s quite presumptuous on your part to assume Scott Kirby “chose” not to fly even though he
    had “free flight training” available. It was actually a inner ear issue that Kirby out of the cockpit.
    You make it sound like the military option to fly “is now open to women” when in fact flying in
    the Air Force has been “open” to women flying since 1976. 46 years! Hardly “now open.”
    Knowing many AFA graduates, I seriously doubt any of them would say their education was
    “free.” They worked their asses off for everything they got.
    You cite the $100,000 number for flight training then throw out the acidic statement that
    “apparently, numbers pulled out of thin air are inflation proof.” The economies of scale and
    efficiencies of concentrated training have worked to keep the cost of attaining all the ratings in
    check. Actual flight costs at the Aviate Academy are $71,250 including a FREE PRIVATE PILOT
    LICENSE. The $89,000 number includes living quarters. Compare that to ATP at $89,995 for
    flight training only. Of course, there is no timeline on a position as a First Officer at UAL or any
    other airline. If you don’t like the airline seniority system pick a different way to make a living.
    Comparing doctors to pilots is apples to oranges. Completely different education requirements,
    career tracks and responsibilities. A doctor has one patient at a time, an airline pilot has
    hundreds of passengers at a time. All doctors do not “win the jackpot.”
    With 38 years as an airline pilot, I have yet to see a “money-happy Captain turn into a starving
    Relief First Officer” and I’ve been down-graded more than once. Return on investment is what
    you make of it. Nothing is a given, ever. The industry is a roller coaster. You better love it, or
    you’ll be miserable.
    It is true that 19.6% of UAL’s pilots are women or people of color. That’s why the push for
    diversity! Only 7% are women though? Fact is, United has the highest percentage of women
    pilots of any major carrier in the U.S.! The International Association of Women Pilots in 2020
    showed that in the U.S., 5.27% of ATPs were women. United had 7.4% women, Delta 5.26% and
    American 4.6%. What Kirby actually did was not to brag about the diversity already at United.
    He chose instead to focus on increasing it. United is fully 2% over the number of women ATPs in
    the nation and more than 2% ahead of Delta! As someone who has been involved in pilot hiring
    for 8 years, I can tell you the problem is the low number of women ATPs. We simply can’t find
    It’s ironic that you demonize the one airline in the lead of diversity in the industry. United is the
    one leading the way, talking about it, and actually doing something to improve the situation.
    You’re almost right saying “the very social fabric of our industry is a repellent for them.” It’s not
    so much the industry as it is society. Studies show girls turn off to STEM in the 5th or 6th grade.
    To get more women on the flight deck you need to start there.

  18. I am not an airline pilot, but I spent years as a 121 wrench. Retired now, I came out of A&P school to work on modern aircraft – the Douglas DC-6B. I am also a PP – SEL and a member of EAA (as I suspect a number of you are as well). I could tell countless stories about the days when women entered aviation as other than FA’s, but I believe the statistics cited here are both unchallenged in the Comments and correct. After watching this unfold over my whole career, I would suggest that – for whatever reason – this gender inequity is shameful.

    But I also think that debating the public reasons for this inequity is not going to lead to any solution. Maybe there are a multitude of reasons and maybe we all are part of the problem. However, I would like to shed light on one small window that is slowly opening – one positive change that we could all support: EAA Young Eagles flying program. People too young for the ticket, but not too young to catch the “flying bug”, show up at multiple small airports to catch a free ride on a Saturday morning. The EAA Chapter people donate their time, their aircraft, and their fuel just to give-em a ride up-front. Once they catch the “bug” many move on to take-up flying careers.

    Children think more about what they want to be while “growing up” than almost any other idea. Flying can be exciting and they will help you rediscover that excitement if you let them. Maybe it’s not so much the road to success, and there are many, as the starting point for the journey.

  19. There are a bunch of reasons why I dropped out from flying as a career

    1. I couldn’t afford it anymore
    2. I care about my health
    3. Too many snitches in this industry
    4. Some AMEs encouraged me to lie on my medical
    5. Cogscreen tests are too expensive to keep retaking
    6. Corruption in aviation universities
    7. I see myself getting pregnant later on and putting time into raising a child
    8. I am happier turning wrenches on buses