The airline industry is being tasked with finding a solution to a possible problem with a projected shortage of pilots over the next 3 to 10 years. According to a study by North Dakota University, 30,000 pilots will reach the mandatory retirement age of 65 by the year 2026. If airlines don’t make enough hires to supplement their personnel, the United States could find itself with a problem of replacing as many as 15,000 pilots.
Sheffield School of Aeronautics is recognized by some of the top airlines in the world, and has heard that some airlines have begun to take precautionary measures to entice new pilots such as increasing the rate of pay as well as agreeing to incremental bonuses with their current pilots over the next few years. PSA Airlines, Envoy Air, and Piedmont Airlines—all American Airlines subsidiaries—have made changes to pilot salaries. PSA has increased wages from $24.62 per hour to $38.50 per hour. Envoy has increased its pay from $25.84 per hour to $37.90 per hour, and Piedmont has raised its pay from $29.38 per hour to $38.80 per hour.
Additionally, the three airlines will include signing bonuses ranging from $15,000 to $20,000 as well as a $20,000 retention bonus paid after one year of service in regular installments. This will nearly triple new pilot salaries from a meager $20,000 annually to a whopping $58,000. The idea is that aspiring pilots will find motivation to get licensed, however the reality is that this will likely not solve the pilot shortage issue and instead just make these companies more attractive to current pilots from other carriers.
The United States Air Force is feeling the effects of the pilot shortage as well. Airlines salivate over military trained pilots from the Air Force and target them as new hires when they’re contracts are up. The Air Force has seen declines in its rate of reenlistments over the past few years. In 2013, 68 percent of eligible pilots signed on for incentive pay contracts with the Air Force. They’ve since seen their retention rates drop to 59 percent in 2014 and 55 percent in 2015.
Of the 745 that were eligible for bonuses in 2015, only 410 accepted them. Considering that the reported cost of training a single F-22 pilot is an estimated $12.5 million, the threat of a pilot shortage is alarming, and as Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services calls it, a crisis.
“We have no trouble recruiting pilots. We have more people who want to be pilots than we have spaces to train them. For us the issue is … we are not retaining enough,” Grosso said. “We have gaps in the force and we are very, very concerned about this.”
A meeting between the Air Force and heads of commercial airlines is scheduled to commence on May 18th at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. It is then that both sides are hoping to solve a mutual problem without competing over the same resources. Some thoughts that may come up are offering seasonal flight times for pilots to fly with commercial airlines and then come back to the Air Force. There’s also conversation about allowing pilots to fly part-time. The concept is to find a way to retain pilots so that the military can have personnel to help protect the country while assisting commercial carriers with manning their planes with qualified pilots in light of the ensuing pilot shortage.
As our mission is to train the best aircraft dispatchers in the world, our team of expert staff and professionals at Sheffield is curious to see the fate of pilots in the aviation industry, and hopefully the issue doesn’t trickle down to aircraft dispatchers as well.