There are ways to alleviate the industry’s pilot shortage through a multi-pronged approach, David Olive, part-time executive director of D.C.-based Aviation Workforce Alliance (AWA), told members of the Wichita Aero Club on Tuesday. But such action has to happen soon, he added, for “what is a very serious and immediate problem.”
Increasing the FAA’s mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots from 65 to 67 will “flatten out the curve a little bit,” he explained. But what will have an even greater effect on the pilot shortage in commercial and business aviation is to lower the cost barrier to pilot training “by making student loans available to students at the cost of training today, because [those costs] are prohibitive.” AWA, whose members include nearly 20 commercial airports and airlines, also advocates putting greater emphasis on proficiency rather than the 1,500 hours required for a pilot to fly right seat in a commercial airliner.
The industry also needs to frame aviation jobs as STEM jobs and look to elementary and middle schools to develop its future workforce. “If we wait till high school, it’s not soon enough,” Olive said.
Lastly, the industry can garner greater public support by framing the shortage’s impact in economic terms. Olive cited a study by Flightpath Economics that estimates the pilot shortage by 2026 could cost Kansas 4,000 jobs, $477 million in gross domestic product, and a third of its commercial airline service.