What is causing the Airline Pilot Shortage?

Airline Pilot ShortageWe all know it is uncommon to see multiple news/media outlets taking the same stance on an issue (especially when it comes to politics). So, on the rare occasion it does happen… that should catch our attention.

In this particular instance, with this particular subject, it has happened.

Media outlets such as CNN Money, Bloomberg, Boeing, The New York Times, and more have all spoken to the issue of the Worldwide Airline Pilot Shortage.

However, while many of these companies have identified there is a problem, not many of them have identified exactly what is causing the problem. That’s what I wish to do with this article.

I personally believe there are 4 major factors contributing to the shortage (there are probably more but I am only going to focus on these 4 in this article).

They are:

1. International Demand for Airline Pilots

2. The Mandatory Retirement Age

3. The “1500 Hour Rule”

4. The Payscales at the Regional Airlines.

International Demand For Airline Pilots

The demand for English Speaking Airline Professionals has skyrocketed in recent years. This is primarily due to the rising aviation markets in both Asia and South America. Where, until recently, have not had solid air travel markets in their economies.

The key to this rise is that ICAO has defined English as the standard language for aviation worldwide. So, where do these Non-English speaking countries find pilots to support their massive airline growth? You guessed it.

Also, they tend to pay a pretty penny for any pilot willing to leave ‘Murica and create their flying career overseas.

To see the statistics, click on the CNN Money link listed below:


Mandatory Retirement Age

RetirementNext on the docket we have the mandatory retirement age. Airline Pilot Mandatory retirement age is currently 65 years old. It makes no difference how healthy or dedicated a pilot is, once they turn 65 they are kicked out of the airline world.

The near future problem with this magical number is the fact that most of the world’s “Baby Boomers” are all turning 65 in the next few years. This means that the airlines will soon be experiencing perhaps the highest numbers of retirements they have ever seen!

And… the timing is perfect. These pilots are retiring just as the airlines are experiencing record breaking profits and are creating plans for expansion.

Mandatory Retirees Delta Airlines 2016-2027


You can see how these numbers increase substantially over the next decade. Keep in mind that these are only the numbers for a single airline!

The 1500 Hour Rule

Buffalo Airplane CrashAs many of you may know, the 1500 hour rule is the direct descendant of Colgan Air Crash 3407 in Buffalo, New York.

“The Colgan crash led to a reexamination of training requirements for pilots at regional airlines, resulting in a rule mandated by Congress and the FAA in 2013 requiring that U.S. commercial pilots hold an Air Transport Pilot certificate, requiring 1,500 hours of flight experience. Previously, they had to hold just a commercial certificate, requiring 250 hours of flight time.”

– http://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Airline-News/Training-rule-blamed-for-pilot-deficit

This rule gets thrown into place just as the airlines begin losing their beloved Baby Boomers.

Due to this tragic incident, the FAA decides to mandate that all Airline Transport Pilot’s have 1500 hours prior to being hire-able (or rather prior to acquiring their ATP license). It seems strange that this would be their conclusion seeing as though both the Captain and First Officer of Colgan Flight 3407 had more than 1500 hours at the time of the crash… Was lack of training/experience really the cause?

The Pay-Scales at the Regional Airlines

Begger Cartoon

When speaking of the Pilot Shortage one must always discuss the following theory: the theory states that there is not a Pilot Shortage, but that there is only a shortage of pilots that are willing to work for such minimal pay.

Is this theory 100% accurate? Maybe. It is definitely true that Airline Pilot Wages (especially at the Regional Airlines) are criminally low. Because of this, some experts believe that there are plenty of pilots “out there” to effectively deal with the upcoming shortage, but that those pilots are not willing to return to the airlines because they are making more money in a different career.

This theory would be difficult to prove correct or incorrect. However, until the last year Regional Airline Pilot Pay was an offense to all pilots. New Regional Pilots (including myself) were making less money that the janitor at the airport. This seems ridiculous seeing as though that same Airline Pilot was in charge of a multi-million dollar piece of equipment and the lives of everybody on board the aircraft!

The good news is that pay for these new pilots has started to increase recently due to the surmounting pressures of the upcoming shortage. For example: when I started my Regional Airline Career I was making $22 per flight hour (which equates to approximately $22,000 each year). New Regional Pilots in 2016 can expect to receive up to $40 per flight hour (or roughly $40,000 per year).

In my opinion this is still not high enough for the amount of training and specialization an airline pilot has to go through in order to be qualified for the position. However, it is trending in the right direction… and fast!

You can view all airline pay-scales at: http://www.airlinepilotcentral.com/


There has never been a better time to start your career in aviation! The 4 factors discussed above have created a hole in the aviation industry that needs to be filled. In order to attract new pilots to their operations, airlines are increasing their pay, benefits, bonuses, and job security.

To discuss the airline pilot shortage in greater detail you can email us at info@flyaxiom.com. We can chat with you via email or set up a time for you to come tour our facilites and have your questions answered in person.

Thanks for reading and happy flying!

2017-01-07T19:52:33+00:00August 16th, 2016|

Current METAR

KOGD 230753Z AUTO 17004KT 10SM -RA OVC040 05/04 A3009 RMK AO2 RAB36 SLP180 P0001 T00500039