Charter Execs See Only Temporary Surplus in Pilot Pools

 - June 16, 2020, 9:59 AM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

The pool of available pilots has noticeably increased as a result of the drop-off in operations and associated furloughs, but charter and fractional industry executives expect this to be a shorter-term situation and that the job market might tighten up again sometime next year.

“Before Covid hit, workforce [shortage] was like the 8,000-pound gorilla in the room for a lot of us,” Scott Cutshall, senior v-p of business operations for Clay Lacy Aviation, said during an NBAA Leadership Council Briefing webinar held late last week. “There is definitely temporary relief because of the lower levels of activity right now.”

Inbound calls “have skyrocketed” from pilots working at airlines, he added. “We have a lot of interest from airline employees looking to make the transitions into business aviation.” However, Cutshall expressed doubt that this is a lasting situation. “I personally don’t think it will have a long-term change in what we were experiencing in the past year before Covid hit.”

Joe Salata, senior v-p of flight operations for Flexjet, agreed, pointing to the fact that pilot turnover has “ground to a screeching halt. We’ve had zero attrition.” As Flexjet begins to look to hire again soon, he said, “We’re probably not going to have to be as aggressive as we were once going to be this year.”

But he also agreed with Cutshall that this situation is temporary and predicted that past the first quarter or so of 2021, people will start moving around and jumping jobs again. “It was a very competitive environment for pilot recruitment and pilot hiring up until late February or early March. We’ll see that come back.”

He acknowledged the possibility of a potential “glut” of airline pilots that have been furloughed and looking for jobs. “But I think that will be a temporary thing. I think that sometime in 2021, we won’t see that as a huge factor anymore.”

Leslie Cheshier, v-p of owner and charter services for Jet Aviation, also said the company’s staffing agency has seen an increase in the available pilot pool, but added, “We do expect the need for contract pilots to increase as we come out of Covid and even as clients change the way they’ve structured their workforce internally and how they want to structure their aircraft and their flight department.”

She expressed optimism that demand will continue to strengthen and so too the need for workforce. “We do see there’s a huge interest in private aviation. It’s very encouraging that [it] will increase.”