Real Answers from Real Pilots

Pilot shortage

I know this has been talked about constantly, but once again I ran into an old acquaintance from some time ago. He is a helicopter pilot with the Kentucky National Guard. He loves it and has been doing it for many years. When I told him that I will soon be getting my PPL and graduating from high school and am really considering a career as a commercial pilot, he started his advice. He said that aviation was great and that he was very proud of me that I will soon have my PPL but that I need to think very long and hard before pursuing it as a career. The airlines are paying more right now and heiring all the able pilots they can even from them. But new pilots are starving to death and as soon as the airlines fill up they will begin furloughs and layoffs on lots of new pilots. He says that this pattern happens over and over again and young people are the ones that get hurt. I know this has been discussed but does it look like we are possibly in an unprecedented time or is this business as usual? Thanks for all you do guys answering questions for us young folks. Really appreciate it.

David,

To begin with, talking to a National Guard helicopter pilot about the airlines is like talking to a Manchester United soccer player about what it is like to play for the Atlanta Braves :wink:

But, to address his concerns; there have been several cycles in the airline industry over the last several decades, that much is very true, but that is true of a lot of industries and is by no means hiding true now. The airlines are hiring as fast as they can, United alone is projecting to hire 600 pilots this year and 1,100 next year. As United and other majors hire pilots from the regionals the regionals need to hire more and the cycle continues. I really don’t see any end insight to the hiring at the airlines as the workforce at the majors is a rather old workforce and air travel is showing no signs at all of slowing down. I would also point out that while there were furloughs in 2008, many of us were untouched by this, it was really a very small percentage of the pilot group.

I am not sure exactly what your friend’s definition of “starving to death” is, but regional pay has increased dramatically over the past few years. Take a look here: http://www.airlinepilotcentral.com/airlines/regional/republic_airline New first officers at Republic Airlines, along with several other airlines, are starting at $40,000 per year with a $10,000 signing bonus, that is not starving in my book. The pay increases over time, increasing dramatically once you upgrade to Captain or come to the majors. Take a look at an article that I wrote several months ago: What Do Pilots Really Earn?

Chris

David,

Not trying to dis your friend but salaries have doubled in the last few years and are continuing to go up. Yes the industry can and sometimes is cyclic BUT we’re currently at the beginning (not the middle or end) of the hiring boom. There are of course no guarantees but I don’t know ANY career that does. If things do sour it’s not “the young ones” who’ll suffer it’s the newest which is why it’s always better to start sooner than later.

Adam

You guys are great and quick! Appreciate your help again. Your answers and guidance is very helpful. As I said earlier, I will be scheduling my PPL oral and checkride in the next few weeks. I know that my training and aviation is a drop in the bucket compared to you guys, but it is exciting to look back to my introductory flight and how nervous I was, to the solo cross countries that I have recently completed. Looking forward to ATP in my future and bring able to call you guys colleagues some day! Thanks again

David,

Don’t sell yourself or your accomplishments short. I WISH I was as far along in the process as you are! At this rate you’ll easily surpass my career in very short order. Keep up the good work.

Adam

David,

In a few short years you will be right where we are. You never know, we might end up flying together someday :slight_smile:

Chris