With the number of airline flights reduced to a slim fraction of what they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to imagine a pilot shortage on the horizon.
Yet, that’s the case.
And that means a bright job outlook for future graduates of Marshall University’s new Bill Noe Flight School.
As of February, global airlines were only flying at less than half of pre-COVID capacity. But aviation experts say that by 2025, after global demand in domestic and international travel expands beyond 2019 levels, they foresee a worldwide shortfall of thousands of commercial pilots.
“While it will be close to two years before passenger volume globally returns to pre-pandemic levels, demand for pilots isn’t determined by passenger volume,” notes Geoff Murray, a former commercial airline pilot who now writes on aviation issues.
“Instead,” notes Murry, “it’s linked to flight hours and the number of planes flying, and the airlines are already bringing aircraft back into service faster than expected to stimulate demand.”
“Initially,” he says, “airlines will be able to draw from the ranks of furloughed pilots and the approximately 100,000 pilots still on carrier payrolls who are not flying full schedules or who are on voluntary company leave. But especially in North America, many experienced pilots took early retirement and are unlikely to come back. Younger pilots, who have the least experience and so will be among the last to be called back, may enter new professions rather than continuing to wait for a callback.”
While a shortage of pilots looms ahead, the experts report there’s already a worsening shortage of aviation maintenance technicians such as those to be trained by Marshall and Mountwest Community & Technical College in their new Aviation Maintenance Technology program, slated to welcome its first students next year.
A new report finds that nearly 30 percent of the nation’s aviation mechanics workforce is at or near retirement age.
The report from the Aviation Technician Education Council found that while there are more than 286,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified Airframe and Powerplant mechanics, 27 percent of the workforce is aged 64 and above.
Yet, new entrants into the field only make up 2 percent of the workforce population each year. In other words, far more technicians are retiring every year than are entering the field for the first time — hence the severe shortage
That’s bad news for the aviation industry — but good news if you’re a young person thinking about embarking on a career in aviation maintenance.