Although U.S. pilot certificate issuances are notably up, industry analyst Jefferies estimated that the industry is undersupplied by 6 percent, or by 8,000 pilots, this year, given the early retirements during the pandemic. Jefferies further believes this will increase to a 12 percent shortage, or 18,000 pilots, by 2025 and to 15 percent, or 23,000 pilots, by 2030.
Citing FAA data, Jefferies noted pilot certificate issuances are up 12 percent year-to-date through October, with ATP certificates surging by 119 percent versus the first nine months of 2021. Compared with 2019 levels, pilot certifications are up by 8 percent, driven by a 42 percent jump in ATPs and a 10 percent increase in student pilot issuances. However, 2022 commercial pilot issuances are lagging behind by 4 percent and private pilot certificates are flat.
For the month of October alone, pilot issuances are down across the board when compared with 2019, with commercial certificates leading the decline at 24 percent, followed by private certificates at -19 percent.
Jefferies forecasts that the pilot supply gap will widen as pent-up pilot certifications the industry is experiencing will normalize and retirements will average at 3 percent to 4 percent annually. About 16 percent of pilots today are between the ages of 60 and 64, and another 17 percent are between the ages of 55 and 59.