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APRIL 2023


Challenge of maintaining pilot pipeline post-pandemic

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April 1st 2023

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Reports of a looming pilot shortage are hardly new. Read More » They were rife pre-pandemic and now the COVID crisis is essentially over, they are re-appearing. Boeing’s 2022 Pilot and Technician Outlook forecast for the Asia-Pacific, including China, estimates the region will need more than 240,000 new pilots in the next two decades.

Analysts offer several paths to meeting this target.

As pointed out by several of them, it is the practice in many markets for pilots to retire at 65 or even 60 at some airlines.

With more than 60% of the world’s pilots aged over 40 in 2023, under present regulations they will be retiring in the next 15 to 20 years, taking a huge swathe of expertise with them.

With forecast demand so high, could it be time to introduce more flexible retirement rules for airline pilots?

Even if the rules for retirement are relaxed, it will only be part of the solution to meeting future cockpit crew demand.

Ab initio training of cadets, teaching them to fly from scratch and specifically training them to a standard that allows them to fly modern commercial jets, will fill some of the demand for cockpit crew.

Airbus has the Asia-Pacific on its radar for ab initio training, particularly in the key growth markets of China and India.

Boeing is focused on how best to train pilots in their early careers. Ab initio training is in that space as is the integration of competency-based training and assessment (CBTA) into curricula.

Almost certainly we will see plane makers add simulators to their training centres in the growth centres of Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and New Delhi. Companies such as Montreal-based simulator and training provider, CAE, agree the Asia-Pacific will record the largest growth in pilot demand as the region’s fleet of in-service aircraft is projected to significantly increase. It employs 350 people in the region, including flight instructors.

Dubai-headquartered Airways Aviation and Hyderabad-based Asia Pacific Flight Training Academy (APFT) in India recently signed a strategic alliance partnership that will provide prospective students and airline cadets with access to the innovative Pilot Pathway Program from next month.

Other private training providers across the region continue to expand. Everything possible should be done to encourage investment in this critical aspect of aviation to ensure the pilot pipeline meets growing demand.

Associate editor and chief correspondent
Orient Aviation Media Group

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