Why Now is the Best Time to Become an Airline Pilot

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 pilot pay reaching numbers only attainable with 8 years of school in most other careers.

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%.

Inside an airline cockpit

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

The trends in air travel are just one factor that contribute to pilot hiring. Retirement numbers have a huge effect on the number of pilots that need to be hired each year.

Therefore, the increase in the need for pilots is often greater than the increase in air travelers. This is evident from the numbers that were being touted just a month ago.

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.

By Liz Brassaw

Liz Brassaw is the Chief Pilot and Chief Flight Operations Officer for Thrust Flight. She is a CFI, CFII and MEI with over 2,500 hours of flight instruction given. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the Utah Valley University School of Aviation Sciences. She’s passionate about flying and enjoys instilling that love in the instructors on her team and the new students she trains.

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