The global pilot shortage promises to be a recurring, spirited topic at next month’s EATS 2023, into next Spring’s WATS 2024 – and beyond. While credible, authoritative forecasts from CAE and other community stakeholders point to the differences between pilot supply and demand curves slowly and incrementally narrowing, there is still much work left to meet the insatiable demand for aircrews around the globe. 

Former military pilots continue to be a reliable source for meeting the commercial aviation industry’s manning needs. At the same time, the US military continues to experience shortfalls in its ranks of operators for fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. Indeed, the services are doubling down on their efforts to more quickly gain qualified pilots and retain them with focused learning technology-enabled programs – and, of no surprise, attention-getting bonuses and other inducements to keep aviators on the active-duty rosters. Projections to significantly increase the personnel readiness of military aviation squadrons extend beyond the current budget outyears program.   

Civil Sector  

In one most recent case United boldly moved forward to obtain what Scott Kirby, the carrier’s CEO, called “some of the best, most talented aviators in the world.” 

This new recruiting thrust aside, United will continue to compete with other air carriers and, more significantly, the nascent, but quickly evolving, eVTOL market for pilots and operators. eVTOL carriers’ first commercial in-service dates for the burgeoning number of airframes scheduled to become operational are being penciled in for the middle- and second-half of this decade. At the same time, OEMs and their customers are establishing training enterprises for the first tranche of pilots. Indeed, as this author has discretely learned the help-wanted sign is posted for qualified individuals (former military pilots especially welcomed) to begin drafting eVTOL operator training syllabi, there is concurrently a quickening pace to build eVTOL training infrastructure.    

Not so Fast      

Of no surprise the US military, as in the recent case of the Navy, is stepping up its efforts to recruit and, more important, retain its pilots. While this and other service pay and compensation actions are offered as one solution set to help the US DoD meet one aviation readiness challenge, progress is being made to strengthen this accession pipeline. As the services’ aging and increasingly operationally irrelevant training aircraft inventory is incrementally and belatedly being righted there is a concurrent urgency to make wise, focused investments in learning technologies to more quickly provide mission-ready pilots to the operating forces.  

The Solution: Multiple Accession Sources 

A finite number of former, qualified military pilots will not singly solve the demand for more pilots in and beyond the US. 

Halldale Group sees a continued, multi-source solution to help close the supply and demand curves for these aviation professionals. To that end, Halldale’s events (EATS, APATS and WATS) and the CAT editorial program will continue to highlight the progress being made throughout the entire enterprise – from the airlines, ATOs, universities and other private sector sources, and efforts to recruit qualified, former military pilots – to meet a continued, persistent demand for commercial airline pilots.        

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