Guest Article by Laurie Price – Air League Trust
How long before websites used by people looking for air services to the UK and US regions show more incidence of “FLIGHTS NOT AVAILABLE”? The reason is, the industry has not been training enough pilots and engineers to meet demand and retirement cycles, compounded in the USA by the aftermath of the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 near Buffalo New York in February 2009 with the loss of 50 lives. Resulting in the FAA implementing higher pilot experience requirements. There could come a time when all regional airline flights are too remote and costly to serve regional communities in the UK and USA, even to the major hub airports, are cancelled indefinitely.
The air transport industry is facing a “Perfect Storm”; a storm highlighted by Boeing and Airbus predicting a shortage of 500,000 new and replacement pilots and 600,000 engineers to crew and maintain the growing and replacement fleet of aircraft over the next thirty years. In terms of airline crew equivalents that’s 250,000 crews; enough to operate some 35,000 civil aircraft.
But the industry and Government has failed to address the problem, largely of how do individuals fund courses or gain sponsorship. The larger airlines had never had a problem recruiting pilots or engineers, the free market providing a steady stream of recruits from the regionals, self-improvers and former military personnel. The net result the airlines adding to their inventory of fleets needing additional and replacement crews, and aerospace manufacturers willingly sold the aircraft, no one was addressing the problem of who was going to fly, or maintain them!
Bleeding the regionals dry of pilots has been the first consequence, as recently reported by SkyWest in the USA but it will get worse as it’s not just a U.S. problem but global one. The UK is already short of qualified Flying Instructors. European rules still allow lower hours requirements but subject to exacting formal commercial pilot training courses lasting 18 months or more, but come at substantial cost to the individual, but with limited loans available.
The position is compounded by a lack of coordinated industry and Government planning but also a change in potential recruits attitude to a career as a pilot or engineer. No longer is the allure of the flight deck or the ramp quite the same in the digital age dominated by attention to IPhones and Xboxes. The industry has to change its approach to encouraging young people to consider a career in air transport and aerospace to fill the void and showcase the dynamic, challenging and rewarding careers available.
To that end, the Air League in the UK in association with the RAeS and associated groups in the USA are looking to build on their innovative flying scholarship, bursary and “Young People Build a Plane” programmes, to launch a transatlantic initiative to raise the profile of opportunities for young people in the industry. That will be achieved through a collaborative effort of industry working with government education departments and economic development agencies to establish seminars, events, apprenticeships, exchange programmes, course funding and other initiatives focused on schools, colleges and youth organizations such as the US Civil Air Patrol and UK Air Cadets to ensure that the sectors contribution to securing global security, peace, prosperity, cohesion, understanding and opportunity facilitated by aerospace and the global network of air services is maintained.
We need action now. This is a global issue. If you want to get involved contact us. Together we can ensure that we instigate a change and ensure the world remains flying!