Friday, July 24, 2015

Government regulations may have played a role in the pilot shortage

See A Looming Pilot Shortage Means a Bumpy Ride for Airlines: Airline pilots’ average age is 50, and newcomers are scarce. No wonder: The starting salary is $23,000 by Dan Elwell in the WSJ. He is president of Elwell & Associates, an aviation consulting firm. Excerpts:
"Here’s how the pilot ecosystem is supposed to work. At the top of the food chain sit the major carriers. Typically, they hire experienced pilots from the military and regional carriers. The regionals and the Pentagon, in turn, train inexperienced pilots looking to move up the ranks.

But that base of the pyramid has been shrinking for decades. In 1980 there were 610,490 people in the U.S. with private, commercial or airline transport pilot certificates. By 2014 the number had withered to 432,138. In 1980, there were 557,312 student and private pilots; in 2014 there were about 240,000.

Complicating matters, Congress passed a law that went into effect in 2013 changing the certification required to become an airline co-pilot, which raised the required hours to 1,500 from 250. That requirement, known as the 1,500-hour rule, was intended to address concerns over pilot inexperience raised after the 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407, which killed 50 people.

But the law dramatically decreased the number of qualified applicants to regional carriers. The new rule adds roughly $100,000 and several years to the process of becoming an airline pilot, which has a chilling effect on young aviators. Particularly since the average starting salary for new regional pilots is an abysmally low $23,000, according to the Air Line Pilots Association.

Over the next 20 years, growth in commercial aviation and an unprecedented wave of pilot retirements—the average age of airline pilots is roughly 50, up from 44 in 1993—will exert huge pressure on the industry. The problem can only be addressed by introducing more young people to aviation and solving the cost-benefit dilemma of high training costs and low salaries."

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