There are 365 days in a year. If CAE group president for civil aviation training solutions Nick Leontidis’s math is correct, he estimates that moving forward the industry must hire 70 new pilots a day to meet staffing needs. That’s just to accommodate airlines. The world of corporate aviation and even the military will feel the pinch, too, as airlines compete for every qualified pilot willing and available to fly.
How To Grow a Pilot
It takes roughly two to three years of intensive classroom, simulation, and flight training to grow a fully qualified jet pilot from scratch. The industry has a lot of recruiting, training, and harvesting to do to come up with a couple hundred thousand of those in the next two decades.
When it comes to ab initio (from the beginning) flight training for professional pilots the landscape is changing, and fast. What once was a simple choice for a fledgling of “shall I learn my skills in an ‘academy’ or ‘mom and pop’ (small independent flight school) environment now feels more like selecting from a menu of training possibilities. Those options come with a host of fine print that, if not carefully perused, could trip up a promising career from the start. Even more critical, this education comes at significant cost, but that cost can also vary. So, how does one fathom value in flight training?
Someone who wants to be a pilot today has to ask not just, “Where do I train,” but also, “How do I most efficiently learn and perfect the skills I need?” Airline pilot-style training by a flight training academy has often been considered the gold standard because of its inherent standardization and the rigorousness of most programs worldwide, but even the structure and syllabi by which future pilots train and are certified at academies has changed with the times.
In some venues, such as the U.S., the minimum experience requirements for transitioning to the right seat of a commercial airliner or left seat of a corporate jet have changed. Elsewhere new ICAO and EASA ratings make it a quicker ride to the right seat, while new airline transport pilot (ATP) regulations in the U.S. are credited with creating taller hurdles for pilots to jump over, slowing the process significantly.
Only one aspect of professional flight training remains the same: it is still expensive to learn to fly and gather enough flight experience to qualify for a first officer position on a corporate jet or for an airline anywhere in the world. And more now than ever, that cost burden is borne by the student and his or her family. That too, however, may be changing.