Flight Training Costs Creating Pilot Shortage

Market forecasts indicate skyrocketing demand for pilots in the next few years, but funding issues are grounding many would-be pilots. Photo courtesy Brandon Farris, Copyright 2011.

In spite of forecasts indicating skyrocketing demand for pilots in the next few years, flight training providers can’t find enough student pilots to keep the doors open. This begs the question, “why aren’t people signing up to fly?” The primary hurdle, or barrier to entry if you will, is a near complete lack of funding options for future career pilots.

While the profession isn’t as glorious as the old stereotype, being paid to fly is still a dream job. Pilots don’t have as many days off or make as much money as their neighbors think they do, but it’s all worth it for the view. Unfortunately, getting into the left seat of an airliner requires a set of demanding and varied skills that can cost a pretty penny to learn… money that many potential pilot trainees just don’t have.

When you consider the sheer amount of knowledge and skills required to be a proficient pilot – things like managing ever more complicated technology, knowing how to keep the plane in the air, and playing part-time meteorologist – flying can start to look daunting to say the least. Throw in that the cost to have the privilege of trying to make your brain explode by trying to cram in all that information is more than $75,000 and suddenly accounting is starting to look pretty attractive as a career.

The truth is, flight training is difficult and expensive, but it is worth it and there is always a way to make it happen. There are training programs available that meet the needs of nearly every aspiring aviator, but the relatively sparse funding programs are creating a shortage of full-time pilot trainees in favor of students taking a more part-time approach. These students typically take about twice as long to complete a standard ATP program of study compared to full-time students, but by stretching the costs out over a longer period of time they also typically graduate with less debt.

According to figures in Boeing’s Market Outlook for 2010 the aviation industry worldwide will require an average of 23,300 new pilots per year over the next two decades in order to cope with pilot retirements and fleet growth. While a significant portion of this expansion of the worldwide aviation market is very attractive for aircraft manufacturers and potential pilots, US-based pilots have even more going for them. In 2007, FAA pushed back the mandatory retirement age to 65 in order to cope with a similar potential shortage. While this has led to a number of furloughs among younger pilots in the short term, within the next five years nearly two out of every three pilots are facing retirement. Given such an excellent potential job market, this makes the training situation even more problematic for would-be pilots, airlines, and even aircraft manufacturers. Funding troubles aside, one thing is certain – now is the best time to start training if you have the funding.

For more information on flight training and choosing a school, click here.

Source: Cost blamed as training lags pilot demand
This article was written by Matthew Everett, a private pilot, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to AviationSchoolsOnline.com. You can follow him on twitter @leaving_tf or find his blog at http://leavingterrafirma.com.

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