U.S. airlines are facing the most serious pilot shortage in nearly 50 years
U.S. airlines are facing what threatens to be their most serious pilot shortage since the 1960s, with higher experience requirements for new hires about to take hold just as the industry braces for a wave of retirements. Jack Nicas has details on Lunch Break. Photo: AP.
These changes are expected to force passenger airlines to increase their pilot ranks by at least 5%.“This is going to come to a crisis,” said Bob Reding, recently retired executive vice president of operations at AMR Corp.’s AAMRQ +5.83% American Airlines and now a consultant to FlightSafety International Inc., an aviation training provider. Added Kit Darby, a consultant on pilot-hiring trends: “We are about four years from a solution, but we are only about six months away from a problem.”
Estimates differ on the problem’s magnitude. Airlines for America, a trade group of the largest carriers that collectively employ 50,800 pilots now, cites a study by the University of North Dakota’s aviation department that indicates major airlines will need to hire 60,000 pilots by 2025 to replace departures and cover expansion. Mr. Darby’s firm calculates that all U.S. airlines, including cargo, charter and regional carriers, together employ nearly 96,000 pilots, and will need to find more than 65,000 over the next eight years.
More than half of U.S. airline pilots are over 50, said Mr. Darby, the consultant, reflecting a bulge in new hires in the 1980s and scant hiring over the past decade.