After a drought of pilot job openings in the last decade, the airline industry is on the verge of what could be the biggest surge of pilot hiring in history. Below are the top five reasons why pilots are suddenly in high demand.
Revamped Pilot Training Requirements – With an eye on safety, the FAA overhauled decades-old pilot training requirements, making the bar for landing a coveted job in the right seat of a U.S. airliner much higher. Newly minted airline pilots must now hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, which requires extra training and more flight experience. Regional airlines are already feeling the strain of the revamped requirements as major carriers look to pilfer their qualified pilots. Getting an approved aviation college degree, by the way, will put you on your airline pilot career path sooner, with 1,000 or 1,250 flight hours required versus 1,500 hours for a traditional ATP license.
Exploding Growth at International Carriers – There's big money to be made flying for international airlines. In Asia especially, demand for well-qualified pilots is exploding, with paydays for those who decide to fly in places like China or India of well over $200,000 a year. International carriers have been holding job fairs in the United States to lure airline pilots away. As a result, U.S. carriers are under pressure to find and retain qualified crews while also filling new job openings with junior pilots. As long as airlines outside the United States continue their hiring sprees, pilots choosing to remain in this country will be in high demand as well.
Retirements of Baby Boomers – In 2007 the government changed the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from 60 to 65 years old. That move only delayed the inevitable wave of retirements of baby boomer pilots, who suddenly were given an extra five years to remain in the left seat but who are now being forced to hang up their wings as they reach that golden age. With wave upon wave of 65-year-old pilots being pushed out of the industry, airlines are scrambling to hire younger pilots to fill those empty cockpit seats.
An Improving U.S. Economy – Landing your first airline pilot job can involve a bit of luck as hiring rates can ebb with the health of the economy. After the financial crisis of 2008, job openings temporarily disappeared as airlines focused merely on staying in business. Since then the economy has slowly but steadily improved while airlines have discovered new revenue streams that are helping some reap record profits. As travelers again return to the skies and with the country's improving economic outlook, airlines are in heavy growth mode, placing orders for new airplanes and seeking the pilots to fly them.
The Looming Pilot Shortage – Industry insiders have been warning of a pilot shortage for decades, but one never materialized. That has led some to the conclusion that a looming pilot shortage is a myth. But the reality is the shortage has merely been pushed to the right, first by economic blows from 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis and then by changes in the mandatory airline pilot retirement age. Now, the economy is improving, 65-year-old pilots are retiring in large numbers, and airlines can no longer hire less qualified pilots after the FAA overhauled airline pilot training requirements. Add it all up and not only is a pilot shortage a near certainty, we're seeing some of the telltale signs that it's already here.
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