February 6

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Why Now is the Best Time to Become an Airline Pilot

In the past people became airline pilots because of a life-long passion. Like teaching, and a few other under-appreciated careers, it was the kind of job that only those who felt it was their “calling” were crazy enough to pursue. The hours were inconsistent, the schooling expensive, the training difficult and the pay not-so-great.

That is no longer the case.

The pilot shortage has created a rare opportunity for career-changers and those entering the workforce the likes of which have never been seen in the aviation industry. This has resulted in more affordable flight training, the requirement for a degree disappearing, and the pay reaching numbers only attainable with 8 years of school in most other careers.

Two airline pilots sitting in the cockpit preparing for a flight

So how did all this happen, and what exactly do the changes look like?

What is the Pilot Shortage

All of this happened due to a drastic shortage of pilots around the world. Boeing predicts that in the next 20 years over 800,000 new pilots will be needed. This is the result of nearly half of the current airline pilots being required to retire in the next 10 years due to the mandatory retirement age of 65 being enforced by the FAA. 

To mitigate this, a new pilot will need to be made every 15 minutes over the next 2 decades.

To make matters worse, hardly anybody wanted to start a career as an airline pilot after 9/11. That lull in trained pilots is finally starting to hit. Just as a record high number of pilots were posed to leave the industry, a record low number were entering it.

Despite all this, air travel is becoming more common and popular all over the world. Between 2019 and 2038, the number of airline passengers is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.6%.

Control panel inside an airline jet

All of this comes together to create the perfect storm (or perfect opportunity if you want to be a pilot). More pilots are retiring than ever before, less pilots are staged to come in, and air travel is increasing. 

In short, the airlines are becoming desperate for pilots. In fact it’s already hit the regionals hard. As a result the pay, benefits and sign on bonuses for pilots at the regional level are higher than ever.

The Opportunity for Pilots

A regional pilot in 2016 could expect to make around $30,000 annually. That number has increased to over $50,000 a year today, and is only going up.

Regionals are offering signing bonuses now of over $35,000. These huge signing bonuses can help mitigate the cost and debt of flight training. The time it takes to move up from regionals to the majors is averaging about 2 years, and as the majors start to lose pilots to retirement, that number is sure to go down.

Once working for the majors, an airline pilot’s salary potential increases significantly. The average pay for a major airline pilot is upwards of $150,000.

An airline jet parked at a terminal loading passengers

Of course this number also has the potential to increase as airlines try to become more attractive to pilots.

Airline pilots are going the way of many other trades. So much demand and so little supply is turning this career into a viable high-paying job for people of all backgrounds. 

Flight training financing is becoming more accessible to anyone. And major airlines no longer require 4-year degrees making it easier and faster to become a regional airline pilot.

If you’re interested in learning how to start, check out our blog post on how to become an airline pilot.


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