Welcome to the Pilot Shortage

February 20th, 2014 by Martin Rottler

Can you see it? We’re going to talk about it.
Image via http://www.disruptiveleadership.com

For once in the airline world, something has arrived early. This time, however, it’s not-so-good: a long forecasted, sometimes delayed pilot shortage. From the Wall Street Journal to Brett Snyder’s CrankyFlier to BusinessWeek,the news of a significant shortage of qualified applicants to our nation’s regional airlines has captured the attention of the media and business world alike. Great Lakes Airlines has taken the extraordinary step of closing their Minneapolis Essential Air Service base and Republic Airways is parking airplanes. This is an area with which I have spent the past several years immersing myself in heaps of demographic data from the FAA in the form of reports and spreadsheets. With this post, I hope to elaborate on some of the key areas in this conversation all members of the aviation community need to know.

 

 

The Pilot Shortage is not a Myth, Despite What ALPA Leadership Says

Yogi Berra once said that half of the game of baseball was 90% mental. While an offhand mistake, there is a comparison to be made to airline unions: more than half of the game of airline unions is 90% politics and messaging. The Air Line Pilots Association has decided  to stake their political message in press releases and a video message from ALPA President Lee Moak. Within the talking points put forth by the pilot union, there are several key insinuations that represent misinterpretations of the market or outright falsehoods:

  • Regional airline pilots are not leaving the United States en masse to go work for companies like Emirates, Cathay Pacific, or Korean Air. A prospective pilot or even a somewhat-established regional pilot does not meet the very high published minimum hour requirements set forth by these companies which include thousands of hours of flight time and/or time in aircraft of 737/A320 size or larger (Korean Air’s mins; Emirates’ mins). Cathay Pacific isn’t even hiring American pilots at this point in time.
  • By the time a pilot meets the minimum hour requirements to fly for these global carriers, they are likely unwilling to uproot their families and daily life to move to Dubai or deal with a 7-14 day on-off commuting schedule. Is $20,000 enough to make you move you and a family halfway around the world?
  • The number of pilots on furlough by ALPA member carriers is greatly eclipsed by the projected hiring amongst legacy carriers. American alone has publicly announced they will be hiring more than the number of pilots ALPA says are on furlough in the next five years. Pilots on furlough face a difficult decision: start at the bottom of another airline, with a reduction of salary and seniority or wait out a callback from their employer.

These mixed messages by ALPA’s national office fall flat compared to the pointed comments of American Eagle’s ALPA leadership, which stated last week after rejecting a concessionary contract offer from American: “[American Eagle's ALPA organization] will be working with the American Eagle pilots to help them find placement with other airlines. ALPA representatives will ask management for their timetable regarding the liquidation of American Eagle.”

The Demographic Picture Looks Like One of My Paintings: Not Pretty

The 2012 US Civil Airmen Statistics from the Federal Aviation Administration contain several statistics that show things are going to get tougher for pilot supply and the aviation industry as a whole.

  • The average age of an Air Transport Pilot is 49.9 years old, an increase of .1 years from 2011. This is important, as many of the regional airlines began to transition their younger first officers to ATP holders during this time as it became clear that the certificate in some form would be required for FAR Part 121 operations. It is entirely likely the average age would be higher if it weren’t for these preparations.
  • Slightly more than 62,000 of the 149,100 active Air Transport Pilots in the United States fall between the ages of 50 and 64, which places them within 15 years of the FAA mandated retirement age. Some of these pilots will continue flying in other places, but they won’t be flying for the airlines.
  • There are 81,805 Student Pilots between the ages 0f 16-30 in the United States. While an okay number on the surface, there are several problems when reading between the lines. Analysis shows that somewhere in the area of 30-50% of student pilots won’t finish their Private Pilot certificates. The FAA doesn’t currently have a system in place that designates the number of these pilot certificates that are issued to foreign students who come to the country for flight training alone. Using written exam address data, colleagues at the University of North Dakota estimated that up to 40% of new Commercial Pilot certificates issued in the country were going to these pilots who will take their ratings home when training is done.

The Elephants in the Room (Pilot Pay, the New ATP Rules and Training Costs) Need to Be Addressed

Since the dawn of airline outsourcing after deregulation in 1978, the major airlines have pitted contractors and subcontractors against one another in an effort to reduce costs. Parlance calls this a “whipsaw,” where companies that provide some service, be it regional flying, aircraft cleaning or even aircraft maintenance, try to unsustainably underbid one another for an airline contract. The major airlines like this process because it keeps their costs lower. The employees of these contractors and subcontractors face downward pressure on their wages and benefits to the point where the starting salary for a regional airline first officer becomes $20,000 in their first year (less attention has been placed on ground crew as of late, but workers at Delta’s hub in Detroit were recently whipsawed for the fourth time since the airline merged with Northwest. Those workers that have stuck around between the four handling companies have seen their pay drop 50%). This race to the bottom is unsustainable for line employees and the air travel system as a whole. There’s near consensus that $21,000 a year is not acceptable for new airline pilots. At the same time, regional airline boards and CEOs need to be cognizant of the fact that offering their leadership raises in the area of 200% while asking pilots to take a pay cut is a slap in the face and highly unethical.

A student graduating from a university aviation program will do so with approximately 300 hours in their logbook. Thanks to the new ATP qualification rules, they are not able to begin flying for a regional airline until they earn 1000, 1250 or 1500 hours (depending on the program). This means they will spend an extra 1-3 years flight instructing or doing other forms of flying that don’t necessarily prepare them for professional piloting, thereby losing their honed study and professional skills from their degrees. This leads to increased training times once they do get hired at the airlines, and increased costs. Congressional and regulatory relief from the so called “1500 hour rule” is imperative. My proposal: a reduction of the restricted ATP certificate eligibility to college graduates to 500 hours.

Finally, aviation universities need to take a hard look at their training programs for ways to reduce costs for their students. This needs to be done on the micro (internal) and macro levels of aviation education. I cannot speak for individual programs and ways to save costs internally. On the macro level: Why is a new primary trainer from Cessna, Piper or Cirrus $200,000+? What can we do to reduce the cost of fuel & insurance?

Silo No More, Aviation Industry!

The most important takeaway from this situation is the need for the aviation industry as a whole to enter into a collective conversation about pilot and other aviation professional workforce supply. We can no longer afford to silo ourselves as labor, education, management, GA, and manufacturing. If we do not, the fundamental shift that will come won’t be pretty.

Martin Rottler

Martin Rottler is a lecturer at the Ohio State University Center for Aviation Studies, in Columbus, Ohio and a Partner at First Segment. He is a commercial pilot and certificated flight instructor and has worked in general aviation, the airline industry, and international aviation. An avowed "avgeek" from a very early age, Martin maintains academic and personal interests in aviation education, outreach, flight training, and international aviation. He can be found via Twitter at @martinrottler. The views presented on this blog are Martin's and do not represent those of The Ohio State University, the OSU Center for Aviation Studies, or any other organization.

The opinions expressed by the bloggers do not reflect AOPA’s position on any topic.

  • Mike Schauer

    I agree with aspects of Martin’s article but I would argue that he is lacking some insight. I feel very strongly as pilots we must stand united on this issue with accurate information and I would be happy to discuss with Martin the realities of being a new airline pilot in the US. As a seventh year airline pilot with a flawless record (one whom has not yet made $50k in a year) perhaps I can shed some light on the following inaccuracies.
    - I was fully qualified for an international flying job with only two years regional experience paying over 100k above my regional salary
    - Regional pay and quality of life is not yet improving. There is clearly not yet enough supply curve pressure to raise pay and it is impartitive the 1500hr rule remain. An ethics discussion with Bedford is NOT going to solve anything.
    - Airline flying is a repetitive process in an extremely narrow flight envelope when things are working correctly. The learning curve is negative (we are slowely getting worse) as we progress in the airline. The precious few 1500 GA hours is the critical foundation we need to be good when things go wrong. At highly structured flight schools we are spoon fed through our initial ratings. It is truly the period between flight school and airline employment we learn to think for ourselves and become true aviators. As much as the ERAUs of the country would like you to think we come out polished and ready for the airlines, the best pilots 5, 10, and 30 years later are those that get good GA experience after school.
    Let’s get our facts straight, and let’s fix this industry together.

  • Chip Wright

    There is at least one gross inaccuracy here: pilots that transition from the U.S. to international flying with Emirates, Cathay, some of the Chinese carriers, etc., are not making $20,000 a year…some are making almost that much PER MONTH.

    Further, the author is wrong when he states the regional pilots from the U.S. can’t meet the hiring minimums. The fact is that the majority of the pilots leaving the U.S. for foreign carriers are ONLY coming from the regionals. Major airline pilots are rarely heading overseas. The published minima for the foreign carriers change frequently and, like many U.S. carriers, often depend on the individual applying.

    Lastly, having trained both 250 hour new hires and pilots with thousands of hours as a CFI in my previous job as a regional captain, I do not at all agree with the notion that being a CFI does not prepare one for a job at an airline. In fact, it’s one of the best means of preparing because being a teacher is one of the best ways to truly learn the art of flying.

    I also disagree with the author’s proposed ATP solution. The current requirements need to be amended to require a broader base of experience in cross-country, actual IFR, night, and time in complex, busy airspace.

    What I do agree with is that the correlation between pay and the cost of training is very real. The cost of learning how to fly is simply too great. It has skyrocketed since 9/11, and there is plenty of blame to go around: the FAA, insurance companies, the manufacturers (both planes and their vendors), fuel, etc. Further, prospective pilots have other avenues to spend their money for quicker gratification. For prospective professional pilots, the investment is simply too risky.

    With regards to ALPA, what the author left out is that ALPA has frequently recommended that regional pilots accept the pay concessions, and has encouraged the race to the bottom in the regional sector.

    For the most part, the author is incorrect. Where he is spot on, though, is in his assertion that ALPA is simply wrong on the cause for a pilot shortage.

    • Martin Rottler

      Hi Chip, thank you for your comment. The $20,000 figure comes from a point that Captain Moak makes in the video about starting salaries at Emirates & Cathay Pacific being ~$20,000 greater than those at United, Delta, or American. It could have been clearer on my part.

  • JJ Greenway

    First off, anyone who will benefit from pushing the myth that there is a pilot shortage will continue to sound the alarm. This includes aircraft manufacturers, training providers and… surprise… AOPA! In the seven years that I worked at AOPA, I was finally pulled aside by one of my superiors and told that the “company line” at AOPA was that there was a pilot shortage. No matter if there was or not. It’s good for membership. (And if you’re going to have a CEO that makes $1.6 million per year, you NEED membership.)

    The railroads have NEVER had a shortage of locomotive engineers. And kids don’t go run themselves into unsustainable debt learning to operate locomotives then fling themselves prostrate on the doorstep of the railroads and beg for a starvation wage job. No, the railroads simply take good people, train them well and pay them well. End of story.

    Simply look around at hiring requirements if you want proof that there is no pilot shortage. Nor is there an impending one. Most corporate flying positions that come open want not only a type rating but want 90 day currency IN TYPE as well! Alaska Airlines still demands a college degree of their applicants. (None of the majors/legacy/what-ever-they’re-called-today/carriers demand that.)

    I postulate that the “lower-tier” regionals, (i.e., the ones that pay the least and have the worst working conditions) are positioning themselves to apply for an FAA exemption to the “1,500 hour rule” by publicizing their “cancellations” due to “crew shortages”. And at a time when the FAA is not staffed with folks smart enough and with the institutional knowledge to know the right thing to do, I predict that they will issue the exemption.

    Remember that “Duck Dynasty” show, those idiots with the beards that acted like rednecks? A few months back, the show made worldwide news because one of the actors had supposedly made “anti gay” remarks in an interview and was “suspended indefinitely”? Well, if you didn’t read the back story, the whole thing was pre-planned just to garner publicity for the show. And…it worked. And the TV viewing public believed all that tripe. (And the “anti-gay” guy is back as the star of the show.)

    The entire aviation industry is being played like a cheap fiddle on this pilot shortage nonsense. I, for one, simply don’t buy it.

    • Martin Rottler

      Hi JJ, thank you for the comment. As an independent blogger, I cannot and will not comment on any insider AOPA politics.

      The bread-and-butter corporate flight positions that have always been in high demand will continue to be in high demand as the pilot shortage ramps up. The “big four” majors (UA, AA, DL, and WN) have all recognized that this is an issue for them in the coming years and made that fairly public–it’s not just “lower tier” regionals that are warning of a shortage and asking for regulatory relief.

      • JL

        There will never be a shortage of pilots at the “big four”. They are using the situation to gain regulatory relief that is a benefit to them. Pilot shortage articles serve business interests but do not help pilots. They are good at selling university degrees, pilots licenses, and filling regional ground schools with indentured servants who are willing to work for nothing.

  • Eric Armstrong

    Having been a GA instructor for almost 20 years, a former Regional Captain/Instructor/Check Airman and a Captain/instructor at my current major airline, I have flown with, trained, and evaluated countless pilots. One of the things that I have learned in all of this experience is that the number of hours in a pilot’s logbook is a very poor indicator of his/her ability. A much better indicator is the pilot’s attitude. I have flown with and trained 250 hour new hire FOs that would “water your eyes” with finesse and skill. What they lacked in experience they more than made up for with effort, a professional attitude, and a willingness to learn from people that do have the experience. There is the old saying about having 1000 hours vs. 1 hour 1000 times. The difference between the two is the attitude with which the pilot approached the 1000 hours of flying. It doesn’t matter if the person is in the right seat or the left seat, flying a 757 or a 172, the professional aviator will accept the challenge of truly gaining experience with every hour/leg that goes in the logbook so that they are improving their skill and knowledge with every hour. THAT is the person that I want to fly a trip with and I don’t care how many hours are in their logbook. Congress can’t pass a law requiring a professional attitude so all the rest of these rules are just so people feel better.

    • JL

      Professional Aviation is a career that holds the same obligation as any profession of providing a worthwhile return on ones investment. The cost of college, flight training, and time spent building experience is not in concert with the wages and lifestyle being offered at the regionals, or even at many legacy airlines. Upgrade times at the regionals are still a long haul. Job vacancies are not due to career progression. Turnover is due to regional first officers coming to the realization that this profession will not produce a middle class lifestyle and is not worth the opportunity cost of what it took to get there.

    • Joe Mulheron

      Well said Eric. Perfect description of what is really important.

  • mf

    Markets will sort out the pilot shortage if there is indeed one. Salaries in the airline industry suggest that there is still implied overcapacity in the industry. If airlines cannot make a profit except by exploiting their labor, they will eventually have to raise prices, which will cause the industry to shrink, until a reasonable balance is reached. Trying to do “something” to alleviate hypothetical pilot shortage will only prolong an unnatural situation, particularly if this “something” amounts to a subsidy.

    I only fly for fun, so I do not have an inside knowledge of commercial flying. However, I do remember this. When I was in grad school getting a physics PhD, National Science Foundation was raising stipends for people like me, encouraging more enrollment, claiming that there would be a shortage of professors and scientist. I am coming into final years of my career, and I can tell you that there never was one. And I doubt there will be one in the future.

    Markets are imperfect, but markets is all we have.

  • Paul Watson

    Sure wish this was the situation when I left the USAF in 1972 with great time and experience in C-141′s. But as they say, timing is everything.

  • Tom

    Do you really believe that people that come out of university programs are better pilots? Do you think that they have more experience than someone that has 2000 hours in the air? Please visit these programs and meet the pilots that they are putting out. Some are good, many are mediocre, and even more are just down right scary. They memorize checklists and standardization manuals, but have very little experience in flying airplanes.

    Go to Okeechobee Airport and watch the students from FlightSafety, Aviator College, and Embry Riddle parked with their hobbs meters running (usually with one engine running). They would rather park their airplanes on the flight line and sit and talk than to actually fly the airplanes.

    If you only require 500 hours for university graduates, you will end up with more Colgan’s or AirFrance’s. The sky will be filled with pilots that have trouble passing check rides and have no real understanding of aerodynamics and how to fly an airplane. I would prefer a pilot that was a CFI for 1000 hours, and then fly night cargo (single pilot IFR) for another 1000 hours, and then move to a regional airline if they choose. That is how real pilots are made.

    • Erik

      I cannot disagree with you more. Saying that someone with 2000 hours is always a better pilot than someone with fewer than 1000 hours is just nonsense. This whole one size fits all attitude is one of the biggest problems we have in our industry. I have a R-ATP and fly for ExpressJet Airlines, I came to the airline with right at 1000 hours and graduated from Western Michigan University. Thanks to the training I received there (including a Jet transition course) and the experience I gained flight instructing for 300 hours there and then 350 hours in Phoenix, the training program at the airline was, for lack of a better term, easy. It was a lot of work but I learned everything quickly and continue to learn every day. I believe there is a lot to be said for the argument that taking someone who has a lot of time is frequently harder to train than someone who has less time and has known nothing but training. Really it all comes down to if the pilot has a professional attitude, and if they strive to learn and improve upon their flying every flight they operate. And frankly people learn things at different rates. To say someone needs 2000 hours before they can fly a regional aircraft is just dumb. Also if you had to build that many hours before you can start making a wonderful $21,000/yr, good luck getting any new pilots.

      • Eugene

        Erik, there are indeed gifted pilots who learn faster than others and display skills and an attitude that is becoming of a professional pilot. I don’t think a pilot fresh out of flight school should go anywhere near a regional jet etc. At times what students learn at school and what the real flying world is all about, are sometimes a little different. I think the 1000 hour mark and then 2000 mark are possibly averages. I have flown with some idiots with 22,000 hours and will never recommend them, then I have flown with 500 hour pilots who are really good. There is too much automation in airlines and the 250 hour pilots could lose their hands on skills. I agree with another post regarding pilots getting some GA experience before joining the airlines. If they are that good, then they will keep up their skills and knowledge base in the meantime.

        I am married to an American, also a pilot. We fly in Africa. We both have FAA ATP’s. She is not interested in the US airlines as the pay scales are an insult to the experience we have. There are pilots around, but its becoming apparent that more and more simply cannot afford to, and are not willing to accept such low wages. The Regional Airline system is an outdated and broken system, and the pay has to go up. There are other jobs out there. So the regional airlines CEO’s and their fat paychecks will be hit hard if they dont change with the times. China is booming, the middle east is booming, Africa has jobs a plenty.
        I hope things change for the better, and for aviation!

  • JL

    If a pilot shortage materializes it will be due to a shortage of individuals who are willing to endure what is required for the wages and working conditions being offered. In the past aviation was a worthwhile profession that provided an upper middle class lifestyle in exchange for a lifetime of devotion and sacrifice. Airlines hired pilots from a broad background of aviation experiences to fill the flight deck with a diversity of knowledge and ability. The advance of automation has made it easy for a regional airline to fill its ground school classes with young 300 hour university graduates who hold few expectations other than being provided a place on the seniority list. In exchange the airlines have been able to reduce their costs thorough wage, working condition, and benefit reductions. The average person with a family to support and holds the mental acumen, work ethic, and financial resources to become a professional pilot can do much better outside the industry in other occupations that value their abilities. There are plenty of pilots with thousands of hours of quality flight experience who now pursue other careers outside of aviation however we have a shrinking supply of martyrs.

    The next generation has grown up in the financial crisis. They have seen their parents struggle and understand the value of a stable and financially rewarding career. They do not hold romantic illusions and will not be led astray by pictures of twenty somethings with gold bars on their shoulders. Modern aviation is a massive investment. Young people increasingly will not be going deeply into financial debt for an ill preforming career.

    • Kevin Kundert

      Very well stated JL!

    • Buck Rogers

      Excellent post!

  • Nathan Lee

    Here’s the pilot shortage in a nutshell.

    Seeking well qualified applicants to operate multi-million dollar equipment. The job involves being held directly responsible for the lives and well being of hundreds of people per day. Appicant must know and ensure complience with hundreds of thousands of words of regulations. Ideal applicants will have paid for close to $100,000 of training, and passed numerous checkrides and proficiency checks. The ideal applicant will have spent at least 2 years in another entry-level position gaining experience for this job. This job involves the ability learn and manage incredibly complex equipment, you can plan on spending long hours studying during our training program. The job will keep you away from home for long hours, and possibly days at a time. You can plan on working every holiday like Christmas and Thanksgiving for the first few years. First upgrade opportunity will probably be in 4 or 5 years, depending on the needs of the company.

    Compensation: 24,000 / year.

    How am I supposed to support a family on that? How does almost $100K and years of hard work and study and “doing my time” as an instructor pay that dismally? Until the industry starts paying new pilots a livible wage based upon their education, our industry will continue to lose potential pilots, and fail to inspire the next generation of aviators. I’m not asking for heaps of money, I just want to be able to fly and feed my kids.

  • http://www.squawk7700.com Pete B.

    “There’s near consensus that $21,000 a year is not acceptable for new airline pilots. At the same time, regional airline boards and CEOs need to be cognizant of the fact that offering their leadership raises in the area of 200% while asking pilots to take a pay cut is a slap in the face and highly unethical.”

    I’m not sure I agree with this statement entirely in this article. What’s worse, a free market of capitalism, or a continuous supply of pilots Freely & Willing to work for $21,000 (and less) as a pilot group. I think I put more blame on the pilot population than I do on the business leaders making a little bit more (relatively speaking).

    Pete
    Best selling author “Squawk 7700″

    • DWA

      Maybe we need to call their bluff and stop encouraging pilots to take the road to the Airline Industry. What would happen if there was a true “pilot shortage”? Maybe pay rate increase? Supply and demand, huh? :)

    • Tom

      Do you blame public school teachers as well? They accept low paying jobs, and must have a masters degree to work. How about the military? Is it their fault that they choose to protect our country, and come home with debilitating injuries and we cut their benefits time after time.

      I agree that pilots should all walk off of the flight line until they are paid what they are worth, but it will never happen. Every public school teacher should walk off of their job today as well. Same with every firefighter and police officer. But they don’t. Why? It has something to do with a sense of pride and duty. If I have to explain it to you, you will never understand it.

      • JL

        It is an unfair comparison to hold pilots in the same light as school teachers. School teachers where I live do much better than regional airline pilots. Not only do they get a few weeks off at Christmas but they also get every weekend, holiday, and the entire summer off. Lets not forget that teachers can look forward to a retirement and decent benefits as well.

      • EH

        “I agree that pilots should all walk off of the flight line until they are paid what they are worth”

        Thanks to the railway labor act we cannot do that

        • GuamPilot

          The ‘no walk off’ restrictions of Railway Labor Act only apply to workgroups with unions.

          Mike

  • Jay

    Define “Pilot Shortage”

    • Buck Rogers

      Pilot Shortage – (adj.) – 1. A lie or scare tactic put forth by fast track pilot mills, AOPA, airline management, and those that would benefit from the continued repression of pilot pay in the interest of maximizing financial benefits for those in the C-suites. 2. An environment where plenty of qualified pilots exist for the available jobs with said pilots unwilling to suffer the poor quality of life, low pay, career instability, after paying an exuberant amount of money in flight training.

      Close enough? ;-)

      • Jay

        So Buck, are you saying that there really is no such thing as a pilot shortage in any generation? I’m pretty sure that that is what I just read in your definition. Is congress getting scared to ride on airlines these days or is the public threatening the congress if they don’t take action such as the 1500hour rule?

        • Buck Rogers

          Correct. There is no “pilot shortage”. There IS a shortage of pilots willing to work for low wages. The airlines are excellent at adapting to the changing environment. A removal of 50-seat jets to replace them with 76-seat jets and soon 100-seat jets (this will occur soon enough) will mean the same crew will be able to carry more passengers, thus, requiring less pilots and/or airplanes. When the regional airlines thin out (and they will), you will find a lot of pilots on the streets looking for their next $20,000 job (thanks to the seniority system). This system is designed very elegantly against the starting pilots. The majors won’t see a pilot shortage. They will drain the regional pilot pool until the regional airlines go out of business. The majors will have no choice but to fly the feeder routes themselves, on bigger airplanes (which is happening). Let’s be clear. Our aviation infrastructure will not go away. What will go away are the pilot mills and regional airlines that has continued to feed the low pay mentality. Pilots who are victims of shiny jet syndrome will continue to hurt the career by accepting these low pay jobs. These said pilots are willing to give up self respect for the opportunity to fly jets. Sad.

      • Matt Wagner

        Perfect! Could not have defined it any better.

  • Jay

    It has been said that the cockpits of the future will be so automated that they will only have one pilot and one dog. The pilot is there to feed the dog and the dog is there to bite the pilot if he touches anything.

    • wingknut

      +2

  • Jim O

    Pressure is on to increase minimum wage to $10.00 per hour. Let’s do the numbers. Using a Standard “work month” of 167 hours: $10.00 x 167 x 12 = $20,040. Now that’s a frequently seen number here.

    • Sam

      Minimum wage jobs are meant as a stepping stone, not a career.

      • Sam

        I do agree, it’s pretty sad that is a frequently seen number around here!

      • wingknut

        This assumes everyone is capable of much better, and it also ignores the fact that Min wage jobs will never go away.

  • DT

    When you pursue a career as a professional airline pilot you sacrifice control of your future since you are married to your current company or have to start over at the bottom should you switch employers despite the cause. There is no lateral movement. The company has total control of your financial and lifestyle growth. Realistically, you should maintain a separate part time occupation alongside your airline job allowing for an alternative career when your airline employer trashes your flying career through years of furlough, bankruptcy declarations with all benefits lost, or retroactive loss of retirement benefits by handing the earned retirement over to the PBGC. Then, you get pennies on the dollar in your latter years with no ability to make up for this loss. Some people are fortunate and get through minimally scathed but the threat is always there. I would recommend an airline piloting career to a young person as the first thing to do after they have failed at everything else. And even then you will need an alternative for career stability.

  • Kelly Harlan

    Much of the problem is that pilots are willing to work for peanuts, and companies would rather hire them than more experienced pilots who demand more pay. About 10 years ago I went through the interview process at a regional. I had thousands of hours of 135 commuter PIC with 9 pax, but the few of us who had more experience in my interview class were not hired-They were hiring all of the sub-1000 hour guys that they could mold. It doesn’t make a lck of sense. We have heard about this pilot shortage for years, but I haven’t seen anything change.
    If these pilots would stop working for these underpaying jobs it would help. Of course management is going to fill slots the most cost effective way. But the pilot unions are saving the day! lol
    Working as a CFI taught me more than I ever learned in flight school. The best way to learn things is to teach them to others. It is all about attitude.

    • JL

      I was working for a regional when the sea change occurred. It seems that management figured out that if they hired primarily young pilots without experience they would be stuck there for longer and would not complain as much. It is an intentional systematic move away from experienced pilots. When I was hired at the regional I was the lowest time guy in my class with 3800 hours. Two years later they were hiring guys with as little as 200 hours while experienced pilots were passed over. It was then that I realized that thee was no value remaining in the profession anymore. If a company would intentionally hire those without experience as an advantageous business move then our gained experience means nothing to the industry anymore and as such our careers are worthless as well.

  • Jay

    I see airplanes flying each and every day with none parked. There is no pilot shortage.

    • Jim O

      Are you certain those aren’t UAVs?

      • Jay

        You might have a point there Jim O.

    • EH

      Done trolling yet Jay? There is a pilot shortage, companies are flying their pilots closer to the max allowable per month that ever before. Just because you have a bunch of bitter older pilots who got screwed by the retirement age getting moved up to 65 saying that, “they have been saying there is going to be a pilot shortage forever” doesn’t mean there isn’t actually one. Just wait till the busy season for flying starts around spring break, it is going to be a mess.

      • Jay

        EH, I can remember many 117hour months in my commuter career back in the 1980′s when we didn’t know what compensatory rest was.. That was back when you were still legal to fly as long as you could find a block of 10 hours in 24, regardless of travel time to the motel or elsewhere. Oh and we had to double up with 2 to a motel room back then while acting like we were getting rest. Then when the new rules came into effect we thought we were getting it easy when we timed out and they sent us home. They told us there was a pilot shortage then too. Bitter, older pilots? Maybe some are, but my philosophy is that what goes around comes around. Pay now or pay later. So I will assume from your comments that I’m going to see airliners parked during spring break. I will be watching. See if you can get some news organizations and alphabet groups to publish some of those pictures of parked airplanes due to a lack of drivers. I don’t really want to win this argument and I sincerely hope you are right.

    • wingknut

      What else can you see from your kitchen window?

  • Shane Hilt

    Thanks for putting this out there. As a graduate of ATP’s 90-day program (Airline Transport Professionals) in 2011, I was part of the cutoff group that MIGHT have made it to a regional before the 1,500 hr rule took effect, but as it happens my instructing has been on the side so I just finally broke the 500-hr mark. I knew what I was getting into with the starting salary but when reality set in, it became a little harsher than I thought: with nearly $800 a month in student loans (a combo of ATP’s $50,000 program and prior undergraduate studies), the 50% pay cut I will take to start a piloting career will crush the stability of the already stretched-thin financial stranglehold I, with MANY of my college-grad colleagues, have found myself a part of. The thought of spending all of my thirties in financial limbo with ZERO disposable income or savings as I attempt to even get established in a flying career is not the kind of thing you’ll find in the flight training program ads. God help me if my wife and I end up with children.

  • ScottF

    It’s very ironic that essentially a single accident, Colgan in Buffalo, has led to this discussion. Obviously the accident was tragic and should not have happened. But, the reality is the pilot was already an ATP and he still screwed up big time. Life has risk and you can’t legislate it out of existence. The new ATP requirement would not have made a hill-of-beans difference. Why we allow these knee jerk reactions by politicians and activists is the bigger shame. Their feel-good reaction, the arbitrary increase of the requirements for a 121 pilot, is a simple disgrace and does not address the issue. As many astute readers here have pointed out, it’s the quality of the pilot not the quantity of hours. I hope the more level-headed within the FAA and the airline industry are able to able to convince the powers that be that the new 121 ATP requirements are not the answer to this problem and come up with a more equitable answer for both pilots and airlines.

    • Eric

      Agreed, don’t know why this is not talked about more.

      • GuyR

        Congress is talking reelection we are talking flying and safety. Complete disconnect. For knee-jerk reaction think about 9-11 and TSA. All appearance, no substance.

  • JT

    51- the number of US airlines that have filed for Chapter 11 since the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act.
    21- the number of US airlines that have filed for Chapter 11 since September 11, 2001.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airline_bankruptcies_in_the_United_States- yea, I know, Wiki quotes

    Airlines continue to be one of the worst long term stock investments, with a few exceptions. One of the reasons we do not have a pilot shortage is the airlines keep un-employing more. I don’t believe pilots are going to be making more much money until airline executives can figure out how to make a profit by stuffing people and boxes into very expensive metal tubes and flying them from point A to point B. Or perhaps aviation students figure out that 100,000+ of debt is no longer worth the enslavement to college loans.

  • Pete Fleischhacker

    Hey pilots, wake up! The pilot shortage is your friend. The law of supply and demand is on your side, something that never happened in my 50 years of flying. Rejoice in it. Let’s not try to fix a problem that’s in your favor.

    • Jay

      Right on Pete. If there really is one.

  • Dave McClurkin

    I won’t argue the pro’s and con’s over th 1500 hours rule. However, if congress repeals this law it will finally be time to address flight instructor compensation. If pilots can once again head off to the regionals with just 250 hours the industry will need many many more career flight instructors. A major incentive will have to be greatly increased pay and benefits. This will drive the cost of flight training up, not down!

  • Martin Payne

    Show me the money and the regional pilot shortage goes away!

    I make more money doing my Reserve / National Guard job part time than do at my full time airline job.

    Martin
    14 year Regional Airine Capt and military helicopter pilot

  • Martin Payne

    With a little more pay, I might use spell and grammar check on my iPhone.

  • Buck Rogers

    Wow…just wow. I wonder where Mr. Rottler gets his numbers from. According to AOPA’s super expensive study a few years ago, the student drop out rate is in the neighborhood of 70-80% while blaming the CFI as the culprit due to poor customer service (what audacity of AOPA to even make this statement). Yet, he states that “Analysis shows that somewhere in the area of 30-50% of student pilots won’t finish their Private Pilot certificates.” Well, which is it? Is it 30-50% or is it 70-80%?

    Second, any working pilot knows that the minimum requirements PUBLISHED doesn’t necessarily equate to what the airline ACTUALLY hires. Folks have been hired quite a bit lower than published minimums for the job.

    Mr. Rottler asks: “Why is a new primary trainer from Cessna, Piper or Cirrus $200,000+?” This is quite disingenuous as a NEW trainer is no longer in the $200,000 range. Try $300,000. A 2014 Cessna Skyhawk C172S is billed at $415,000. While the question is worthy, suggesting that a new primary trainer by these three manufacturers can be had in the $200,000 proves that Mr. Rottler is just throwing out numbers that sound right.

    This post is entirely based on Mr. Rottler’s lack of intimate knowledge with the issue at hand and the industry. There are PLENTY of qualified pilots who are UNWILLING to work at poverty wages that the regional airlines are offering. There is NO pilot shortage. Mr. Rottler even said “There’s near consensus that $21,000 a year is not acceptable for new airline pilots.” which suggests that they are pilots out there; they’re just not willing to work at this pay level. Again, there’s no pilot shortage. I for one have the qualifications but absolutely REFUSE to disrespect myself by accepting a $20,000 job with a salary cap at year 4 with the possibility of sitting right seat for 10+ years making year 4 pay; all the while suffering the pains of management, scheduling, and the burdens of commuting 2 legs to my domicile while never seeing my family on holidays and special occasions. Who in their right mind would think this sounds like a stellar return on investment with over $70,000 in flight training costs, plus the time and effort to earn certificates/ratings?

    Mr. Rottler also suggests that “a reduction of the restricted ATP certificate eligibility to college graduates to 500 hours.” would help solve the problem. Where did this magical “500″ number come from? Why not 300? Or 346? 500 sure sounds like a nice round number that has zero basis in statistical validity.

    Finally, I’m not even sure why AOPA asked Mr. Rottler to write this blog post in the first place. AOPA does nothing. They stand on a soap box, yell and scream, beg for money, and then quietly hide away into the shadow on any issue that is important to aviation. But, they are excellent at paying their executives lucrative compensation packages and hiding their financials from the public’s eye.

    This whole blog post pisses me off.

  • Chip Wright

    I don’t normally respond twice to one blog post, but the other responses on here have compelled me to do so.

    Folks, many of you are missing the point. The pilot shortage is indeed real. It would have transpired 5 years ago had the Age 60 rule not been changed. The Age 65 rule, combined with the realities of the recession, have magnified the problem.

    The shortage is a two-pronged issue: as many of you stated, the regionals have made the FO pay so unattractive that even qualified pilots won’t consider it. The captain pay is not all that bad–I was a regional pilot for 16 years, and spent 12 as a captain, and cleared $100,000 several times, and I was not at the top of the pay scale. The FO pay is what is abysmal. As one respondant said, 7 and 8 year FO’s can barely make $50,000, which wouldn’t be so bad except for the burdens of their loans. The 5 year “freeze” imposed by the new Age 65 rule, along with the lack of fleet growth at the majors, and the price of oil climbing to a point that eliminated the advantages of the smaller RJs, all prevented many FO’s from upgrading. Many have left the industry.

    In the meantime, those regionals that were hiring were hiring 250-hour pilots, but not so that they could “mold them,” as one respondant says, or because they were more trainable. They hired 250-hour pilots because they had no choice. Low time pilots mean higher insurance premiums for an airline, and the airlines simply had no other low-hanging fruit, and the pilots needed the jobs to at least make an attempt to pay back their loans, and that brings me to to the second cause.

    The second issue creating the pilot shortage is the cost of entry, which is a barrier. Pre-9/11, pilots that went to one of the major flight schools, such was the (then named) Comair Academy, averaged a loan payment of $400 a month. Not cheap, but doable. By the time the Academy was sold, those loan payments had exceeded $1200 a month, which is more than my mortgage. I suspect the same has occurred at other large institutions as well. The situation at Part 61 schools is not much better.

    When you combine the two, and look at the number of student starts by Americans–not by foreign pilots coming here to learn–the shortage is indeed real. AOPA has acknowledged as much, EAA has as well, and the actions of ExpressJet and Great Lakes confirm it.

    Even Emirates, which is the premier foreign airline to work for, is forecasting that they will have trouble crewing all of the A-380′s they have on order if the world-wide pilot shortage does not get addressed….and more than half of their pilots are Americans.

    I said before that there are many forces here to blame, and solving it will require the input and cooperation of all of the stakeholders.

  • Tom

    How does lowering the hours from 1500 to 500 for a restricted ATP solve the safety issue? Obviously it solves the shortage issue as you pointed out but the hours were raised for a reason.

    The solution is so simple its mind boggling. Charge an extra $1 on the airfare so FO’s can earn $50,000/yr to start. Problem solved.

    Everyone wants to complicate things.

    • ScottF

      There is no safety issue!! REPEAT. There is no safety issue!!

      Airline flying, including the regionals are incredibly safe. It’s become a political issue, nothing to do with safety. Accident rates are so low they are barely above “statistical noise”. As pilots we always need to strive to be as safe as reasonably possible. But, the new ATP requirements for FOs do nothing for this but make activists and politicians feel like they’ve done something to “fix” a non-existent problem.

      • Jeff J

        AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Matt Wagner

    After having gone through another period of unemployment (due to my last company going bankrupt), I can definately say there is no pilot shortage in this country. Only shortage is of persons who are willing to spend thousands of dollars to train for a job that only pays $20K per year. I deliberately did not apply at any regional airline because I made more money on unemployment than what the regionals pay. Several of my fellow pilots who where put out of work along with myself accepted offers with the regionals because they had no other choice. I put in applications at all the majors and still no calls yet. Got a job with another pt. 135 operator flying Citations which pays a lot better than any regional airline. This pilot “shortage” baloney is the same thing I used to hear about when I started flying in the late 80′s. Until I see pilot pay levels increase to a more reasonable amount I will never believe that there will ever be a pilot “shortage” in the US.

  • Martin P

    Congress with input from all the players, Airlines, ALPA and the FAA decided 1500 hours was the minimum but the restricted ATP is still an option. Look it up. Sure the USAF & USN put 500 hour pilots into F-18/F-16′s. However, they go through a “crap load” (scientific term) of very expensive selection and lengthy nonstop training (usually 2 years). Flight hour minimums are standard throughout the aviation world. Nothing new here, Private, Commercial, ATP. It is a way to estimate knowledge and skill. It takes time to gain this valuable experience FOR THE PUBLIC’S SAFETY!

    Go talk to the regional airline training departments and ask how many extra hours are being used to get new pilots up to speed. I hear it is a lot. Lots of checkride failures too.

    Check out. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/flyingcheap/

    It does not change the fact that 52-53% of domestic flying is done by regionals where the pay is absolutely pathetic. You want good people, you are going to have to pay for it. No amount of CEO whining and puppet business / aviation media can change that. Supply and demand is what I learned and the well is nearly empty. I guess we could outsource those jobs too but you would have to get Congress to change that too. The majors will never have a problem finding enough pilots. Why, because they pay a descent wage.

    I actively discourage everybody to NOT enter this industry. Spend that $100,000 on a Med degree.

    “Show me the money!”

    • GuyR

      Martin,

      I am an MD and ATP (5000+h), never made any money from flying but for the future I would advise any young kid to stay away from Med degree as well. 90% of surgeons don’t want their kids to go to Med school, go figure. Still a lot better than flying regional.

      • GWK

        My son has his pilot training on hold while he spends his $100,000 on a medical degree. Only it will be more like $250,000 and ten of his prime years. With the looming effects of Obamacare about to burst forth on the American population, the pending doctor shortage will make the pilot shortage look like a walk in the park.

  • Martin P

    From a Mesa First Officer on a regional airline pilot forum.

    How are your guys lines for March? Mine is absolutely horrible again. 76 hours 11 days off, again. I have no CDO’s but did not get awarded one layover I requested. I have two 6 day in a row split pairings with a lot hotels being paid for out of my pocket again. This is getting very expensive and frustrating.

    Translations and interpretation. 76 flight hours for monthly pay (76 x $25 = $1900 per month). 11 days off for the month. CDO (Continuous Duty Overnight) known as a “nap”, working all night w/ maybe 2-3 hour sleep. 6 day work week followed by another 6 day work week. Hotels paid because he is a commuter and not living in base / domicile. Probably can’t afford it.

    Note when my airline had a base at LAX the Chief Pilot Secretary made more money than the First Officers.

  • Martin P

    Comments from another pilot board but a good overview of the airline industry.

    The nation’s big airlines want you to know that there’s a dreadful pilot shortage and they apologize profusely if their commuter-carrier partners cancel flights to your hometown airport due to the debilitating shortfall.

    The nation’s big airlines don’t want you to know that their commuter carriers, which operate half of all the nation’s commercial flights, often pay pilots so little that it’s often financially wiser to drive a truck or flip fast-food burgers than fly a plane.

    And the bosses of the nation’s big airlines certainly prefer that you don’t conflate the fact that they’re cashing in big time with the reality that they continue to insist on financial concessions from their existing pilots.

    In case you missed the impossible-to-ignore, cut-to-the-chase conclusion, the pilot shortage is another nasty side effect of the airline’s industry race to the bottom of everything from employee wages and benefits to passenger service and comfort. And airline bosses are shocked?shocked!?to find that potential aviators aren’t flocking to an industry that offers minimum wages to new employees who’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to qualify for the job.

    Let’s start with the immediate business-travel crisis, shall we? In the past few days, at least three carriers have abandoned routes or grounded aircraft due to a lack of pilots Wyoming-based Great Lakes Airlines (Nasdaq: GLUX) dumped six cities in the Midwest and Plains States due to what it called “the severe industry-wide pilot shortage.” Republic Airways (Nasdaq: RJET), which flies commuter service for all four of the surviving legacy airlines, is grounding 27 planes and blames the lack of pilots. And United Airlines (NYSE: UAL) claims the decision to eliminate its Cleveland hub is at least partially due to a lack of aviators.

    The airlines never mention salaries, of course. Their explanation: a wave of retirements as pilots reach the mandatory retirement age of 65; new federal regulations that require additional crew rest; and federal safety edicts that increase pilot training time.

    There’s some truth in those excuses, but they were hardly unpredictable occurrences beyond the airline industry’s control. Anyone with an actuarial chart could have seen the retirements coming and acted to stock up on younger fliers. The new federal rules that increase the rest that pilots must have connect with shifts that went into effect at the beginning of the year. But they were announced two years ago. The new pilot-training rules, which require a minimum of 1,500 hours of experience compared to the previous threshold of 250 hours, went into effect on August 1, 2013. However, they were more than four years in the making after the fatal 2009 commuter-aircraft crash near Buffalo, New York. In fact, everyone from U.S. senators to the Transportation Department’s inspector general criticized the slow rollout of those regulations.

    And you know what H.L. Mencken said: “When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.” The pilot shortage is most definitely about the money.

    There are many sources of data on pilot salaries, but let’s look at statistics pulled together by airline consultant Kit Darby and analyzed by the travel site Skift.com.

    A first-year co-pilot at a commuter airline may earn as little as $19 per flying hour. After five years with a commuter airline, the average salary is just $40 an hour. For the lowest-paid pilots at a carrier such as Mesa Air Group, which operates flights for both United and US Airways, a 60-hour work week means an effective pay rate of just $8.50 an hour. That’s barely above the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and below the more than 10 bucks President Barack Obama is making federal contractors pay their workers.

    Faced with what it claims is this catastrophic, route-shedding, plane-grounding, hub-killing shortage of aviators, you’d think the airline industry would react with across-the-board pay increases. After all, isn’t that how it works in a capitalistic society? When faced with a labor shortage, companies raise their pay scales to attract more workers. You’d think this would be especially true for airline pilots, whose learning curve is steep and expensive and in whose hands rest the lives of passengers and the reputation of their employers.

    Yet instead of raising pilot pay rates, airlines are insisting on concessions. One example: the particularly ironic developments at American Airlines Group (Nasdaq: AAL), the parent company of the recently merged American Airlines and US Airways.

    According to the Dallas Morning News, the crew that arrived from US Airways back in December to run American Airlines and AAL netted a cool $79 million in stock sales during the last month. That covers chief executive Doug Parker, president Scott Kirby and four other top managers.

    At the same time, however, American pressed for another concessionary contract at American Eagle, its wholly owned commuter airline. When the leaders of the pilots union last week decided not to put the contract to a vote of rank-and-file aviators, American management immediately retaliated by deciding to reduce the size of the American Eagle fleet. American’s newly enriched managers also claimed that they would search for cheaper commuter carriers to do American’s flying.

    Whether that is a real-world possibility given the industry-wide pilot shortage remains to be seen. But the incongruity of newly arrived US Airways bosses feathering their financial nests while demanding concessions from their scarcer-than-hen’s-teeth pilots did not escape the notice of commentators on a leading airline bulletin board.

    American’s new bosses “are just cashing in on the fact that they haven’t given raises [at US Airways] since 1991,” one poster claimed. “They terminat[ed] most of the company contribution to our retirement plan, canceled retiree health care benefits and contracted our work to companies where workers qualify for food stamp[s].”

    The commentator’s bitter conclusion? “This is where we are in America.”

  • JL

    Martin come back !! These are actual airline pilots who need your wisdom and help. Explain again how we are all wrong about this and that the pilot shortage is real. Where is that guy who wants to tell us that all a pilot needs is a good attitude and that we should strive to improve on every flight while our bills go unpaid? Throw us a line !!

  • Exumaguy

    There are plenty of highly qualified pilots available. Airlines in the US just have to pay professionals with professional wages, and there won’t be any shortage. It’s nice that you back up your hypothesis with demographics, but are the demographics so very different from the early 1970′s, mid 1980′s, and late 1990′s when I heard the same sensationalism?

    A fraction of pilots will be lucky enough to make it into the big 6 US airlines and enjoy decent pay and retirement benefits. The rest will struggle and hope to someday reach the upper part of midddle-class pay. Three years ago, the best job I could find was $4100/mth for being an MD-80 captain. I went overseas where the compensation for professionals is much much better. I’m not alone, and there has been a spike in the numbers of US pilots coming over here in the last 6 months. I’ll say it again- There won’t be a pilot shortage when US airlines pay pilots with professional compensation.

    The best benefit of this new hours requirement rule is unintended, but favorable to me. It will raise pilot pay. Quit your hyperbola and enjoy the pay raise.

  • Conrad

    One fact I don’t see mentioned here is that there are over 10,000 applicants on file with each of the “majors” at this time. That’s a lot of folks with an ATP ready to be hired.

  • Martin P

    JL,
    Back in my day we had pilots who didn’t complain about maintenance. If we had 3 engines we were golden. Back in my day airplanes had dirt floors and “real” pilots didn’t worry about deicing or any of that sissy stuff. Crew rest was a hot cup of joe and words of encouragement from the chief pilot. These new age soft youngsters just aren’t cutting it and are always yapping on& on about pay & benefits. Back in my day we got paid in Monopoly money and we liked it. Health Insurance? Bah humbug! If this new generation hadn’t spent so much time playing video games like pong and Crocodile Dundee on their Commodore 64s and actually gone to the gym every once in while, they wouldn’t need health insurance until their 80th birthday. Blah blah blah.

  • Martin P

    Calling all pilots! Calling all pilots!! Calling all pilots!!! Employment opportunity! On behalf of Great Lakes Airlines https://flygreatlakescareers.silkroad.com/

    Great Lakes has been prominently featured in the many many news stories in the Wall Street Journal, Business Week and others.

    Here is excerpts of a post for the airline pilot web boards. Notice no travel to interview, no pay during training, share rooms at hotel during training. I wonder why they can’t find anybody……

    I find it surprising that i got the email sub 1200TT. Possibility they will get their wish of FAR Part 135 (Note trying to get out of new rules)?

    This email has been sent in response to your resume submitted in consideration of a Pilot position with Great Lakes Airlines. We have reviewed your credentials and are very interested in speaking with you about our current openings.
    Please, fill out the attachment completely and email to.

    Interviews will be in Denver, CO. Transportation to the interview is not provided.

    Additionally, class, if selected, lasts 4-6 weeks and is unpaid. However, if selected, hotel accommodations are provided for during class. However, you will have a roommate.

    We look forward to hearing from you. If you are no longer interested in this position please reply to this email letting us know and you will be removed from the email list.

  • Martin P

    Exumaguy,
    I agree with you. I would be sitting back enjoying my raises in Exuma drinking my Red Stripe and snorkeling with the fishes. However, we are not at this stage yet. We are still at the CEO / media lapdog whining and “Congress / FAA is destroying our our business” stage. Wages haven’t started up yet. Wait until the Spring Summer travel season! I’m wagering it will be chaos.

    Maybe we could out source all the regional flying to Mexican, Turkish or Indian airlines? However we would have to teach them English IAW the FARs. Maybe the FAA would exempt them on the read, speak and understand English requirement too? It would save a few $$.

  • Dave

    The airline industry has found itself in the perfect storm. The first wave was the new age 65 rule that went into effect in Dec 2007. This stopped age forced retirements. The next wave was airline consolidation. This reduced flying by the elimination of duplicate trips thereby reducing the need for more pilots. Airline hiring went flat. Movement within the airlines stopped. First Officers who were recently hired remained at low pay and poor quality of life. Some were even furloughed. The next two waves, the ATP and 1500 hr requirement pretty much took the pool of available pilots down to zero. The latest wave, the new flight time/duty time regulations requires more pilots. Main line will have no problem finding 1500 hr ATP rated pilots. The small regionals will be decimated and there may be considerable consolidation at that level. The large healthy ones may survive.

  • Daniel Winkelman

    As someone who would rather be flying, let me give you a clue: Show me the money.

    I’m an aerospace engineer. It would take in excess of ten years at the airlines to get *close* to what I make now, my degree cost a lot less than flight instruction + hours to get to the 1500 requirement, and my starting salary was a living wage (read: several times the minimum wage). Bonus: I don’t have to deal with the unions-vs-management drama in my workplace today.

    Would I rather be flying than pushing paper? Absolutely. But I can’t keep a roof over my head, clothes on my family’s back, food in everyone’s belly, healthcare for the family, and vehicles in the driveway on the starting and first 5 year salaries the airlines pay. So I make the daily slog to the cube farm. The lack of pay for professional pilots is utterly disturbing, especially considering the responsibilities and qualification requirements levied on them. Pay professional wages, and you’ll have enough professionals to fill needs. The way pilots are paid now, it’s better for my family if I keep doing the engineering thing, and pay out-of-pocket to fly as a hobby.

    Airline CEO bonuses and raises are utterly absurd given the state of pay for the pilots and ground crew. The airlines can’t operate without these people. Stop treating them like chattel.

  • Guest

    Saying there is a pilot shortage right now is like saying there is a Chef shortage because people refuse to cook hamburgers at McDonalds

  • Jim hamilton

    I’m a retired Airline pilot and have been in the airline industry since 1966. My son is a pilot for Southwest. Pilot shortage? somethings never change,but this shortage is going to hit like a tornado.