Pilot Shortage Extends to Canada

Small operations up north are feeling the pinch.

reliance airways canada
Gone are the days when young pilots would hone their skills hand-flying small aircraft for the experience.Reliance Airways Canada

The United States is not the only country whose aviation is being challenged to fill the cockpits and staff maintenance facilities. The Canadian Council for Aviation says our neighbors to the north are facing the same kind of pilot and mechanic shortage. A recent CCA report echoes a common theme heard here in the states, "The industry no longer has the same glamour and appeal to youth." CCA reports the need for 7,300 new pilots and 5,300 maintenance technicians by 2025 against a system that's not graduating near enough people to meet these needs.

Case in point is Reliance Airways based in the Northwest Territories near the northeastern corner of Alberta. The airline was purchased years ago to act as the chartered arm of a local tourism business catering to hunters, fishermen and tourists. Rather than operate a fleet of aircraft year round as he used to, Reliance owner Dan Wettlaufer, a lifelong bush pilot himself, told The Star of Edmonton that the lack of pilots these days has forced him to sub-contract from another local operator during the peak season. "… because few young pilots come up to cut their teeth flying in the bush, it's hard to find pilots with the necessary experience …" In days gone by, young pilots would spend a couple of years flying charter aircraft on floats up north to hone their skills before heading off to fly the big iron, but no longer.

UNIFOR, a Canadian trade union representing pilots, mechanics and flight attendants said the airlines are now taking young people right out of college. In the same Edmonton story, UNIFOR said, “Many pilots who are talented and properly trained also get offered jobs in other parts of the world where the shortage is also being felt.”