It’s a great time to be a pilot or pilot-in-training. In fact, Boeing predicts the U.S. alone will need 117,000 new pilots by 2036.
The days of furloughing pilots are over. Carriers are hiring at levels unseens since 9/11 and demand is only expected to increase. Regional careers are already in dire need of more qualified pilots and the retiring baby boomer generation will lead to thousands of open slots at airlines across the USA and around the world.
Recall last summer that Alaska’s Horizon subsidiary was forced to cancel more than 300 flights due to a lack of pilots. The Chicago Tribune notes that regional airlines (American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express) have hired more than 17,000 pilots over the last four years. Even so, those pilots have merely replaced pilots who have been “promoted” to the majors.
In order for a pilot to fly commercial (a jet of any size), s/he must have 1,500 flight training hours. Citing unquenched demand, the Regional Airline Association wants to change that. The association is instead proposing that supervised classroom instruction count toward “flight training”. The 1,500 hour rule was introduced in 2013 after the Colgan Air crash.
While public and private flight training schools are filling up, we may soon see more flight training programs from the airlines themselves. Lufthansa has done for years: it trains its future pilots in Arizona. JetBlue offers a “Pilot Gateway Program” that offers scholarships to aspiring students, but will soon start a flight training program of its own.
Don’t kid yourselves. Jumbo jet captains can make $300K/year, but you’ve got to work your way up. Starting pay for regional jet pilots is poor. Also factor in you’ll be working nights, weekends, and holidays and you will often be away from friends and loved ones. But if you have ever wanted to become a pilot, now is your chance — it’s the golden age once again.