Shortage of Pilots: A Great Threat to Aviation Industry and the Booming Economy


The global aviation industry faces a serious pilot shortage, many will tell you. A recent study by Boeing reveals that more than 637,000 new pilots are needed in the next 20 years which translates to more than 80 new pilots for every day for the next two decades. CAE estimated last summer that more than 90,000 new pilots are required by 2027. As the middle class expands in the Asia-Pacific region, ICAO predicts that this part of the world will need 230,000 pilots by 2030. Globally speaking, pilot shortage represents a market of $15B.

Canada is no exception to this challenge. The Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) estimates that in order to meet the industry’s demands, Transport Canada must issue 6,000 more licenses within the next twenty years. In fact, Canadian commercial aviation currently carries a 200 commercial pilot-deficit every year. Why are we facing this situation?

Two main reasons clarify this issue – pilot retirement and fleet growth.

Pilots are getting older, recruitment of new pilots is woefully inadequate. The physically and mentally demanding pilot career is highly rewarding for anyone passionate about aviation. However, one might be surprised that, globally speaking, aviators are getting older and older, especially in North America.

CAE conducted an impressive study on the subject in 2016 and the data is somewhat startling when we consider the age limit for pilots working for the airlines. In the USA, the average pilot age is 48 while in Africa, Middle East, and Asia, the average pilot age is 46 when in Europe, pilots are 43 on average. For safety reasons, in most of these jurisdictions, the civil aviation authority limits the aircrew members to 65 years of age whether through regulatory or internal policies. With baby-boomer retirements within the next 10 years, a massive shortage of airline pilots is about to happen – this will represent a major aviation performance deficit and will unequivocally impact the whole economy if no action is being taken by the principal stakeholders immediately.

However, it would be unfair not to mention the limitations regarding the access to the profession for young pilot candidates.

There are mainly three obstacles.  All of them are, unfortunately, financially-related.

First, pilot candidates must assume the cost of flight training. Typically, a pilot trainee will disburse $75,000 CAD to $85,000 CAD to earn a private pilot license, commercial pilot license, multi-engine, IFR ratings and airline pilot transportation Licence. A disciplined and motivated pilot candidate can complete full pilot training within two years. Fees in the area of $35,000 to $45,000 per year for training could represent a serious financial burden for a young adult beginning professional life, especially when the candidate has previous debts from post-secondary school studies. It is not unusual to see pilot candidates working on a part-time basis while completing flight training which could bring an interesting and positive mutual relationship between the flight training unit and the pilot candidate, especially in the case of a large commercial flight training operation.

The second obstacle is strongly linked to the cost of flight training.  Indeed, there is a significant lack of financial aid specifically dedicated to pilot candidate financial needs in Canada.

Canadian financial institutions have not yet seriously analyzed the issue of pilot shortage. I was personally shocked to learn through a meeting with one of the big five Canadian banks that financial institutions themselves have not yet studied the impact of pilot shortage on the economy while the issue is threatening the survival of some air carriers and air operators from the most isolated areas in Canada. The shutdown of these businesses could be a real problem as hundreds of isolated communities in the far north of Canada are dependent on air transportation for bottled water, clothes, food, medical services, and essential goods.

The third obstacle relates to the low level of income available for the pilot graduate during the first posting following flight training. While the situation has improved recently, we must acknowledge that there remains the need for considerable focus to be pursued regarding remuneration.

Obviously any reasonable pilot trainee, before assuming any debts/liabilities through a loan, will first need to analyze the value of the return on such a loan commitment.  Education is likely the most important investment an individual will ever make in one’s life, and we could understand the reluctance to choose a profession, while highly exciting when the value of the remuneration could be much lower compared to the fees spent. It is noteworthy, however, that more and more flight training units (FTUs) in Canada, such as Ottawa Aviation Services currently engage with airlines to offer direct entry positions with top regional airlines in Canada for pilot graduates.

Our situation in Canada is more interesting than in Europe regarding flight training.

In Europe, serious training in an academic flight school program, concentrated on an airline pilot career, will cost $173,000 CAD, while it would be only $85,000 CAD for the same level of professional quality in Canada. The European program is, therefore, 49% more expensive than its Canadian equivalent.  Another particular of the European airline pilot training market involves academic flight school programs that are highly professional and commercially oriented to serve the requirements of Tier 1 airlines.  This explains the relatively young pilot-in-commands or captains on Boeing 737 aircraft currently emanating from Europe.

The Canadian airline industry slowly adopts the European modal.  Most pilot candidates follow the traditional pilot career path as illustrated above.

However, it is worth mentioning that many efforts have been deployed by airlines to follow the “European model”, including the Jazz Aviation Pathway Program (Jazz APP) put into place in 2006 as well as the SOAR Program by Air Georgian.  Those are only two of the excellent examples.  By taking a closer look at the Jazz APP, there are more and more partners.  Top public Flight Training Units (FTUs) in Canada such as Seneca College in Toronto and Mount Royal College in Calgary are part of it.  There is only one private flight school in Canada that belongs to this partnership at the moment – Ottawa Aviation Services.  There is no question that Ottawa Aviation Services pilot candidates enjoy strong odds to be hired by Jazz. One should seriously consider private FTUs as they have many advantages over public colleges wherein training is more tailored to the needs of pilot candidates; and expeditious regarding the time frame – on average 18 to 24 months – as opposed to four years in public colleges.

On the airline side, many captains have been reluctant to fly with first officers holding only 500 hours of total flight time.  However, airlines uncovered interesting attitudes about pilot candidates graduating with a disciplined, professional, and serious integrated Airline Pilot Licence Programs (iATPL program).  In fact, airlines noticed that graduates from these programs are regarded as being more suitable for the airline industry than the typical modular flight students who flew previously for Tier 3 airlines since the iATPL pilot candidates are already accustomed to the professionalism of the airline industry with professional benchmarks that are monitored by the airlines themselves.   Airlines have discovered that this high level of discipline and excellence is a more significant variable than the number of flight hours.

Global fleet growth

While Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Dassault, etc. build more and more innovative aircraft, the airlines and private business operators buy more and more of these aircraft for their use. By 2027, we expect the global commercial fleet to be at the level of 37,000, representing a growth of 12,000 aircraft – an increase of 32% over 10 years.  While the number of aircraft seems to be dramatically increasing, the regulations maintain the same number of pilots required per aircraft which is basically 10 for a regional aircraft, 11 for a narrow body aircraft and 16 for a widebody aircraft.  All these new aircraft deliveries are following the high demand for air travel. By 2037, we will be counting more than 1.6 billion passenger trips annually which is another variable in the formula demanding more airplanes and pilots on the global level.

Another aspect is the massive technology shift that the accelerated rate of new aircraft deliveries will create within the next 10 years.  Indeed, 58% of the global fleet will consist of new generation aircraft. This mandates that airlines must develop ways to train aviation recruits efficiently for current aircrews at dramatic new levels of cost efficiency.  It is easy to recognize that this factor alone is a major hurdle for the aviation industry.

Assisted by the incredible technological and engineering advancement, the narrow-body aircraft will represent 65% of the global fleet as the wide-body aircraft will only be 21% of the aircraft by 2027. Smaller regional jet and turboprop fleets will occupy only 14% of the global fleet.

Narrow-body aircraft supremacy is explained by the point-to-point mentality that most airlines are currently adopting for passenger transportation. By 2027, airlines will operate more and more from airport to airport rather than proceeding through the hub-to-hub process, thanks to the civil aviation authorities that authorized better Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards (ETOPS). Smaller and smaller airliners are getting ETOPS approval.  For example, Air Canada now flies Airbus A319s between St. John’s, Newfoundland to London Heathrow.

While the growth of the global fleet contributes to the shortage, the renewal of the fleet demands the recruitment of top-class pilot candidate cohorts throughout the world.


After reading this article, one understands that we are currently in a peak period in the airline industry. It-is-time-to-earn your-pilot-licence.

In Canada, there are 184 FTUs if we exclude balloon, glider, parachute, gyroplane, powered parachutes, and ultra-light schools.  As detailed in the chart below, 154 FTUs offers aeroplane training.  Amongst them, only 13 iATPL programs are accredited by Transport Canada.

As indicated above, iATPL Programs such as the renowned program offered by Ottawa Aviation Services are part of the solution of the pilot shortage, and any potential pilot candidate should consider enrolling in such programs. Professional, rigorous, and demanding, iATPL Programs guarantee successful pilot candidates.

In my opinion, the 13 FTUs offering professional pilot training will play a major role throughout the next 10 to 20 years in the Canadian airline industry and include advantages to work together in order to offer top quality training to future Canadian pilot candidates.

However, these programs set by the FTUs can’t be the sole solution any longer. It is time for our public policy professionals to inform themselves of the emerging economic threats that airline pilot shortage will inflict, not only in the airline industry, but also in the sales/retails, alimentary, and humanitarian sectors around the planet. Governments on all levels must show leadership by gathering and convening the principal stakeholders in planning sessions in order to find solutions.

This article was written by Alexis David Fafard and first published on the Flying Policies blog.

Instrument Rating Image - Control Panel of Aircraft

Find the Best Path – If you are a newly Qualified Pilot


Starting a career is difficult, no matter if you are a doctor, a lawyer, or a pilot. It all comes down to making choices – first employer, first country of work (staying at home or going overseas?), and so on.

I’m a newly qualified pilot, what direction should my career take?

General Aviation, Regional and National Airlines or Instructor are the usual choices for newly qualified pilots.

There is no right or wrong choice as to the direction your career should take.

There are, however, positives and negatives to each path.

A great deal depends on what you, as the pilot, are motivated by on a day-to-day basis and the experiences you wish to cultivate. I would encourage you to have a good think about that and write down your goals and core motivations as this will help you when making your decision about where to start your career.

Keep in mind, most, but not all pilots strive for one key goal; to achieve their Jet Command on either a Narrow Body or Wide Body aircraft.

Let’s look at each career path in a little more detail, keeping in mind that differences exist between regions and countries.

General Aviation:

Again GA is highly contested, with hundreds of graduating pilots looking for a start, highly contested but certainly not impossible.

What do I mean by GA? Well, they are smaller operators who run general charter or scenic flights, aerial survey, aeromedical and executive charter or search and rescue to name a few types of roles.  The aircraft will be single and twin-engine right up to the smaller turboprops and sometimes the smaller corporate jets.  Mostly single-pilot operations, some multi-crew, but pilots still need to build time to meet the minimum requirements for the larger multi-crew aircraft.

GA provides you with a wider diversity of flying and usually a greater degree of hands-on flying.  You are face to face with customers and will need to manage the daily challenges of on-time performance, non-controlled airspace, operational support and in-flight failures.

Most smaller operators offer a few different aircraft types, but it will be necessary to move employers to continue to progress to larger types.  In averagely GA pilots have between 3-6 different employers in their journey to build hours and to reach the minimum airline requirements.

Regional and National Airlines:

Most pilots want to end up on jet, and settle into a secure airline that provides career progression and stability.   You can achieve this with either a Regional Airline, who traditionally offer the larger turboprop aircraft or medium-sized regional jets or a National Airline who will offer domestic and international destinations and Narrow and Wide Body Jet roles.

These airlines can offer two differing cadet or trainee programs.  One, the Ab Initio cadet program requiring zero flying time or experience, and the Advanced Cadet Program that requires a CPL but limited flying hours, let’s say under 800.

Some airlines fund the training; others have repayment schemes for your endorsement costs.  Most provide a secure Second Officer or First Officer position upon passing the training.

Applying to the airlines is something you must be prepared for.  They have rigorous recruitment/assessment processes that can include; Video Interviews, Psychometric Testing, Group Exercises, Planning Exercises, Panel Interviews and SIM tests.  If you decide this path is right for you, ensure you have done adequate preparation to ensure you perform at your best.

So let’s assume you are into an airline, your career plan should include 3-6 years as an SO, 6-15 as an FO before reaching command as an average.  Often airlines have more than one fleet type, so a little diversity exists to move between fleets, taking in to account your seniority ranking, the expansion of each fleet and route structure as to the frequency of those opportunities.

What’s the downside?  Not much really, the recruitment process is tough, and starting as a Second Officer on a Wide Body Jet is a hands-off role, so no flying for you for a few years, not everyone would be happy with that.  Starting as a First Officer straight out of training puts you on a Turbo Prop or Narrow Body Jet and will mean you will fly the aircraft right from the start.

The key requirements a pilot should consider when selecting an airline to apply to are:

  • Stability and growth of the airline
  • A young fleet and new technology
  • Regular progression and supportive team culture
  • The highest standards around training
  • An exemplary safety record

Any pilot role other than with a major airline is usually a stepping-stone to a jet career unless you aspire to stay within a regional or instructing environment.


Many flying schools offer their graduates, Instructors roles, after they qualify.  I suppose it is a bird in the hand situation, why wait for an offer from an airline if you get straight into an instructors role and start building hours without the grueling airline recruitment process.

Often getting that first job offer is difficult with, depending upon the region, hundreds of newly qualified pilots vying for GA or airline positions.  There is career progression in Instructing, usually through 3 stages culminating in gaining the highest level of Instructor Rating.  Opportunities to contribute to the ground school and theory syllabus add to the role.

Often ad hoc charters are part of the flying schools services, providing an additional level of experience and customer interaction.

What are the negatives?

You may be limited to one region or airspace with most of your flying, therefore ultimately lacking some diversity in your experience.  Your student will be conducting most of the hands-on flying so this may restrict the speed at which your hours can be logged.  The aircraft at your disposal will be singles or twins thus no long-term progression to the large aircraft types.

Over my 18 years in the industry, I have noticed that it is a harder sell, coming from an instructor background when applying for the major airlines, even when they meet the minimum requirements.

The experiences you will acquire outside the major airlines, however, are some of the most interesting flying one can undertake.

So, what will you decide?

In reality, you could sample it all.

Exciting times, big decisions to make.

Asian Academy of Aeronautics

Spice Jet Aircraft

Budget Airline Wants to Land in Sea,, Opening for New Cadets


The next sales pitch for one of the world’s fastest-growing airlines may turn out to be: No runway? No problem!

Spice-Jet Ltd., an Indian budget carrier that’s seen its stock zoom 899 percent in three years, wants to open up the third-biggest aviation market even more. That means targeting the billion Indians who’ve never flown before, either because they can’t afford it or because they don’t live near a functioning airport.

he airline is in talks with Japan’s Setouchi Holdings Inc. to buy about 100 amphibious Kodiak planes that can land anywhere, including on water, gravel or in an open field. The deal, valued at about $400 million, would help SpiceJet capitalize on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious plan to connect the vast nation by air without waiting for billions of dollars in upgrades to colonial-era infrastructure.

“Airports are in short supply in India,” SpiceJet Chairman Ajay Singh said. “Lots of the growth in India is happening in small markets, but those small markets have little or no connectivity. So we are looking for a solution where we can get flights to places where no airports exist.”

While negotiations continue, Hiroshima-based Setouchi plans to conduct a demonstration water landing in November, said Go Okazaki, an executive managing director in the overseas business division. He couldn’t estimate when the deal would close.

India’s airlines handled 100 million domestic passengers last year, making it the No. 3 market behind China and the U.S. To handle growth, India will need at least 2,100 new planes worth $290 billion in the next 20 years, Boeing Co. estimates.

Modi unveiled a plan in 2015 to bring aviation to the remotest parts of the world’s seventh-biggest land mass. The government program subsidizes airfares while offering free landing and parking to airlines. Modi envisages domestic ticket sales quintupling in the next decade to half a billion units.

About 97 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people have never been on an airplane, according to SpiceJet. But there’s a problem finding places to pick up and drop off those passengers.

Only about 75 of the 450 areas designated by the Indian government as an airport or airstrip currently handle commercial flights. That exacerbates the stress on major airports in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, where hardly any landing slots are available.

Infrastructure at most of those dormant airports — runways, control towers, terminals and maintenance sheds — has suffered decades of neglect, making the sites unusable.

That’s where SpiceJet’s amphibious strategy comes in. The Kodiak aircraft, which can seat either 10 or 14 people, is capable of taking off or landing on a 300-meter strip of water or land, and has a range of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles.) That’s about the distance between Mumbai and Bengaluru.

By: Anurag Kotoky – Source: Bloomberg Oct 30, 2017

British Airways Aircraft

British Airways to turn household rubbish into jet fuel


On September 18, 2017, British Airways announced partnering with a renewable fuels company Velocys to design a series of plants that convert household waste into renewable jet fuel.

The first plant should take hundreds of thousands of tons of household waste per year, destined for landfill or incineration, including nappies, plastic food containers and chocolate bar wrappers, and convert it into clean-burning, sustainable fuels, British Airways informs. The jet fuel produced at the plant will deliver more than 60% greenhouse gas reduction, compared with conventional fossil fuel, delivering 60,000 tons of CO2 savings every year. Thanks to new development, the airlines expect to reduce net emissions by 50% by 2050.

“The UK still sends more than 15 million tons of waste per year to landfill sites which not only damages our natural environment but also releases further greenhouse gases affecting climate change” – informs British Airways in the official statement.

According to British Airways, the planned plant will produce enough fuel to power all British Airways’ 787 Dreamliner operated flights from London to San Jose, California and New Orleans, Louisiana for a whole year. The airline plans to supply its aircraft fleet with increasing amounts of sustainable jet fuel in the next 10 years.

“Turning household waste into jet fuel is an amazing innovation that produces clean fuel while reducing landfill,” said IAG chief executive Willie Walsh.

In 2014, British Airways has already announced about its plan to buy 50,000 tons of jet fuel made from converted waste as part of Green Sky project, the Guardian informs.


Aircraft Image - aviation news

A grand old transport


The Experimental Aircraft Association‘s Ford Tri-motor spent a weekend in September visiting the DeKalb Taylor Airport (KDKB) in Illinois, “offering rides and walk-throughs for seekers of this grand old transport,” says Albert Dyer who sent us photos of his flight in the Tri-motor.

“The experience left me feeling like this: When those three big engines came alive and settled into a rhythmic rumble, my excitement only grew as the taxi brought the flight closer to the departure end of the runway. What was the takeoff like? IT WAS GREAT!!!”

“The tail was up quickly and seconds later we were climbing, leaving the airport environment. Airborne, it was easy to imagine what passengers of the late-1920s might have experienced as you looked down on all the farmland surrounding DeKalb as the big Tri-motor flew lazily overhead.

“Since we didn’t fly very high you saw a lot of heads looking up with waving arms. The entire flight was an E-ticket ride.”

“Should the EAA’s Ford Tri-motor stop on tour near you, I would suggest that you Google the history of the Tri-motor before you take the flight. Knowing the history only adds to the overall experience. It won’t disappoint.”

He continued: “The EAA Tri-motor is such a goodwill ambassador for aviation. Many young families came out to see the Ford and it sure sparked a light. I’m not sure if it was because of the Ford’s overall size or because everyone was allowed to walk through it, including even sitting in the front office if you wished. It was totally accessible to everyone.

“A lot of elderly folks also came out. You knew their smiles held a story that I would have loved to have heard. I overheard someone say that during the days the Ford was at DeKalb it made more than 25 flights. For an airplane that is almost 90 years old, that’s a lot of interest from a small farming community.”