Expert Flyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway
Expert Flyer is featuring a special six-part Hot Topic series called, “Ask the Pilot.” Our expert, Patrick Smith, is an aviator and the author of Salon.com’s popular ASK THE PILOT air travel column. He also hosts the ASK THE PILOT resource site: www.askthepilot.com. Please enjoy this fourth installment of our series.
(Part 4 of 6)
Is there really a shortage of pilots?
It’s been reported that some airlines have cancelled routes due to the lack of pilots to fly their planes. In general, is there a shortage of pilots in the industry? Why?
We often hear of the looming “pilot shortage.” In fact there will never be a shortage of pilots, per se. However, there is indeed may be a shortage of applicants who possess the level of qualifications traditionally sought after. And at least in North America, this crisis, for lack of a better term, exists almost exclusively at the regional level. It’s a problem not for United, American, Delta, et al., but for their code-share partners and subsidiaries.
If the applicant pool is not being adequately replenished, we need look no further than the $20,000 or less opening salary offered by most regionals. In decades past, flying for a regional was considered a temporary apprenticeship, a stepping-stone before moving on to a more rewarding career at a major. That progression, never a sure thing, is today even more of a gamble. A position at a regional is looked upon not so much a means to an end, but as career in and of itself. And not a very profitable one. Although a senior RJ captain can earn close to six-figures, the prospect of investing tens of thousands of dollars for the necessary licenses, only to languor for several years earning poverty level wages, has dissuaded many from a career in aviation. Continue reading →