The demand for new pilots has never been greater. With commercial aviation expected to double in size over the next 20 years, an exciting opportunity exists for young men and women aspiring to a career above the clouds as airline pilots.

Boeing has again warned of a looming pilot shortage with projections that airlines worldwide will need some 635,000 new pilots in the next 20 years.

The company’s 2018 Pilot & Technician Outlook also predicts airlines will need some 622,000 more aircraft technicians by 2037.

“The pilot labour shortage has continued to tighten amidst strong global air traffic growth,” says Boeing’s outlook. “Fleet growth rates have been especially high in emerging markets that have a comparatively small pilot pool. This has created regional supply challenges.”

Aspiring airline pilots hoping to land a job should cast their eyes towards Asia and China in particular. Boeing has forecast that over the next two decades, the Asia-Pacific region will need 261,000 new pilots and 317,000 cabin crew with China accounting for half of those positions. Rising wealth levels, steady economic growth and higher numbers of people traveling are all expected to contribute to Asia’s need for more aircrew. Older pilots are also expected to retire while the increase in wealth will fuel further demand in the business aviation sector, particularly private jets and helicopters.

In total, China will need 128,500 pilots up to 2037 and Boeing projects that 40 percent of its new aircraft will be delivered to customers in the Asia-Pacific region by then. Elsewhere, demand will continue to be strong in North America over the coming 20 years with Boeing predicting a need for 206,000 new pilots. In Europe, the forecast is 146,000, while 64,000 jobs are expected in the Middle East. In total, global demand between 2018 and 2037 stands at 790,000 new pilots, of which 635,000 will be needed in the commercial sector, 96,000 in business aviation and 59,000 in the helicopter market.

Though pilot unions have long attributed any pilot shortage to low pay, Boeing says significant training costs have contributed to insufficient new recruits.

Other factors include a looming wave of pilot retirements and a lack, in some countries, China included, of sufficient training facilities.

The projections place pressure on an industry that is already struggling with a pilot shortage and training bottlenecks.

Older pilots are set to retire over the next decade and there is increasing demand for business aviation services, such as helicopter tourism and private luxury jets.

Boeing’s outlook is used to create projections for new airplane deliveries. Unsurprisingly, the Asia Pacific will also lead global demand for new planes.

The US aerospace and defence giant projects that 40% of all new passenger planes will be delivered to airlines in the Asia Pacific over the coming years.

Tighten seatbelts

Boeing has an accelerated pilot development programme but their pipeline will not be enough to meet the growing industry demand.

“Strong demand for pilots in the region continues, and we expect that this will continue for the next several years,” said Keith Cooper, vice president of Training and Professional Services for Boeing Global Services.

According to Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes;

“So every year as we do the forecast, we have to ask ourselves, not only will we meet the demand moving forward, but will the infrastructure around the world be there?” he said. “Will we be able to train and have enough pilots? Will airports be built as we expect?”

What is leading this BIG demand?

  • World economic growth is projected to average a healthy 2.8 percent per year, pointing to 4 percent average annual growth in airline passengers, 4.2 percent growth in cargo traffic and 4.7 percent in passenger traffic.
  • That suggests the world’s airlines will need 41,030 airplanes over the next 20 years, valued at $6.1 trillion. A little less than half will be replacements, and a little more than half will be needed to handle increasing demand.
  • Half of the air traffic growth will be in the Asia-Pacific region. “Every year in Asia, another Atlanta is added,” said Tinseth, referring to passenger traffic at the busiest U.S. airport.
  • Although the market for airplane sales is big, the projected market for aviation services is bigger: $8.5 trillion over 20 years.
  • For the year 2018, Boeing projects higher than average growth in the world’s economies (3.2 percent) and in passenger air traffic (more than 6 percent).

Tinseth said the world’s airlines carried an estimated 4.3 billion passengers last year. “Twenty years from now, we expect that to be in excess of 9 billion travelers,” he said.

Boeing Projections – Asia will need 261,000 pilots over next two decades

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