New Study Challenges Pilot Shortage


A young upwardly mobile first officer for a major airline says the math doesn’t support the notion of a pilot shortage anytime soon. Brant Harrison naturally has a vested interest in the pilots ahead of him on the seniority list moving on and when he heard about studies like one from Boeing suggesting the looming need for 460,000 pilots over the next 20 years he was encouraged. But when Harrison couldn’t see any real-world evidence of that shortage he decided to put his college minor in math and business to work and see where all these jobs were supposed to be coming from. In a podcast interview with AVweb, Harrison said the airline-by-airline analysis he’s recently released doesn’t envision any significant change in the job market until at least the end of this decade. “There are so many pilots for a limited amount of jobs,” he said.

Harrison looked at everything from retirements to fleet renewals to new pilot starts in the study and concluded that the only real barrier to airlines finding pilots is the low starting pay for right seaters. Even at the low rates of pay, particularly in the regional airlines, he said the carriers still seem to be able to fill vacancies and that’s where the math gets interesting. While the major airlines have either flatlined or are growing slowly, a lot of regionals are shrinking and that’s put a glut of cockpit-ready pilots on the market. He also said the concern over the FAA’s increasing experience requirements for new airline pilots (up to 1,500 hours from 250) is largely unfounded because with some exceptions most regionals require about 1,000 hours already.