CAE Forecasts Need for 260,000 New Pilots through 2029

 - November 9, 2020, 11:20 AM

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic’s toll on the current civil aviation market, CAE forecasts a global demand for 260,000 new pilots over the next decade. Releasing the 2020-2029 CAE Pilot Demand Outlook this morning, the international training specialist said its analysis shows that the active pilot population is expected to return to 2019 levels in 2022. But retirements and attrition are expected to become a challenge as air travel recovers and will create an “acute demand” with a short-term need for some 27,000 new pilots as of late 2021, growing to 260,000 over a 10-year period.

In business aviation alone, CAE is predicting that 41,000 new pilots will be needed over the next decade to make up for anticipated retirements and attrition. This is projected as CAE notes the business aviation market is facing "massive retirements" as "the percentage of pilots over the age of 50 continues to increase versus the total civil aviation industry pilot pool. Currently, this pilot population age represents a disproportionally high rate."

It further sees the airlines scooping up a portion of business aviation pilots. On top of this, CAE projected a need for another 4,000 to accommodate growth for a total need of 45,000 new business aviation professional pilots over the forecast period. The airlines, meanwhile, need 126,000 new pilots to offset attrition and retirements and then 93,000 to accommodate growth.

CAE acknowledged that the sudden drop in air travel demand hindered the industry’s growth trajectory. “Airlines and operators around the world have adjusted their operations to align with lower demand. Thousands of pilots have been furloughed in recent months,” the company noted. But it wondered whether this ultimately might play into stronger pilot needs in the future.

“Many of them have pivoted to other professions and might not want to resume their pilot careers,” CAE said. “On the one hand, airlines and operators have reduced the pilot workforce to offset the financial impact of the pandemic. On the other hand, data indicates that the industry will face significant challenges in the upcoming years to meet the demand for pilots.”

CAE further stresses that fundamental factors driving pilot demand before the pandemic remain in place. “Age-based retirement combined with fleet growth were and remain the main drivers of pilot demand,” the company said. “Third-party analysis shows that commercial aviation and business aviation markets are forecast to continue growing over the next decade—over 11,000 additional business and commercial aircraft are expected to join the active world fleet during that period.” Of this, CAE anticipates that 3,600 additional aircraft will come from the business aviation market.

The anticipated demands are going to put pressure on the civil training industry, CAE said. “The industry is experiencing an unexpected change of course and facing unprecedented challenges, driving us to reconsider how we can develop and train better pilots,” it said. “One smart approach for coming together as an industry to meet the demand for pilots, as well as instructors, is to embrace training partnerships.”

Finding adequate instructors was an issue before the pandemic, it added. “As growth returns to the industry, the availability of high-quality instructors will pose a challenge for years to come.”

The training provider also expressed concern about a lack of funding for prospective students, noting that less than 10 percent of eligible aspiring pilots have access to direct funding. “Rather than leaving talent on the bench due to funding, we can work as facilitators for access to direct funding by educating the financial industry on the job outlook for pilots and the reality of training,” CAE said, pointing to its recent launch of a financing initiative in collaboration with financial institutions for prospective pilots.

"With the 2020-2029 CAE Pilot Demand Outlook, we hope to arm the industry with the insights that will help the global aviation community understand, rethink, and learn about how to continue to build and grow the supply of highly qualified pilots as the industry emerges from the downturn,'' said Nick Leontidis, group president of CAE’s Civil Aviation Training Solutions. "Disruptive events are opportunities to innovate and collaborate."