GAO Reports On Pilot Supply Issues


Flight schools are finding it hard to retain their instructor ranks because airlines are hiring away their staff, a government study reported this week. At the same time, flight schools find it challenging to recruit new students, due to the high cost of training, which can often exceed $50,000, on top of tuition. The U.S. Government Accountability Office said it undertook the study to address concerns about the supply of airline pilots. In response to these challenges, schools have raised instructor pay, and airlines have offered tuition reimbursement, the GAO found. Also, the federal Transportation Department has launched an initiative to assess the level of interest among veterans in becoming pilots, and to examine strategies for employing them in pilot jobs.

The GAO study comprised 147 schools. Representatives from the schools told the GAO they could use more help from the airlines. For example, one school negotiated an agreement with one airline to initially hire its graduates as part-time pilots and allow them to continue working part-time as flight instructors. School representatives said the airline benefits because the school is able to produce more qualified candidates for their hiring needs. Representatives of one pilot school told the researchers they are working with airlines to change the seniority system, so pilots can get their seniority number while they are still instructors. This could reduce the strong incentive to become an airline pilot as quickly as possible. The full text of the study is posted online (PDF).