There’s no denying it’s been a rough year and a half for the aviation industry and it’s been particularly tough on pilots, both current and aspiring. As the pandemic spread across the globe borders were closed, flights were cancelled, aircraft were grounded and pilots were furloughed. All areas of the aviation industry felt the effects, including pilot training.
Understandably those already in training or looking to start out on their pilot careers lost confidence in an industry on its knees, asking themselves; ‘why would I train now if there’s no job at the end of it?’ A fair question, especially when you factor in the cost of training. However there are signs that suggest things are starting to look up.
Long-term demand for newly qualified aviation personnel remains strong, as 612,000 new pilots, 626,000 new maintenance technicians and 886,000 new cabin crew members are needed to fly and maintain the global commercial fleet over the next 20 years.
Source: Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook 2021-2040 Boeing: Commercial Pilot, Civil Pilot, Aviation Technician & Cabin Crew Demand Outlook.
This is good news for future aviators looking to launch careers on the flight deck. OK, this is a medium to long-term forecast, but there have been signs to suggest confidence for the shorter-term outlook too:
- Lufthansa recently brought its last Boeing 747 out of storage and back into service to meet growing demand for air travel (Lufthansa Returns Last Boeing 747 to Service | Airways Magazine).
- In September the UK government made two significant announcements. The first; from 4 October 2021 red, amber, green countries will be replaced with a much simpler red list. Secondly; PCR tests will be replaced with lateral flow tests for all fully vaccinated travellers entering the UK (UK travel list changes and lateral flow test shortages explained | Euronews).
- As a result of the above changes Jet2 saw a 250% increase in holiday bookings as the lifting of restrictions and simplifying the travel process helped fuel confidence and demand (Jet2holidays data shows customer confidence at highest since onset of pandemic | Jet2.com).
- An article posted on the FlightRadar24 website shows the number of flights in the first half of 2021 was almost 29 million, a 25% increase over the same period in 2020 and only 11% down on the same period in 2019 (Global air traffic during the first 6 months of 2021 | Flightradar24 Blog).
- Across the Atlantic the USA recently announced it will open up to fully vaccinated travellers in November, and stats from the Transport Security Administration (TSA) show that, on average, 1.7 million passengers passed through TSA checkpoints between September 1 and 26 2021 compared to just 700,000 the year before (TSA checkpoint travel numbers (current year versus prior year(s)/same weekday) | Transportation Security Administration).
- Closer to home, the L3Harris Airline Academy was delighted to welcome Ryanair to its London Training Centre in September to speak with our cadets. Following the visit 15 L3Harris graduates started Type Rating training and we’ve now planned a session at our European Airline Academy in Ponte de Sor Portugal.
- In the US regional airlines have returned to our Flight Academy in Sanford Florida, visiting campus to speak with cadets and CFIs about pilot pathways and career opportunities. In fact, five of our recent graduates just joined PSA Airlines to begin their pilot careers!
These are just some of the good news stories out there. Yes, there is still some way to go to get back to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, but the green shoots of recovery are starting to grow. As global vaccination levels rise and government-imposed travel restrictions are lifted traveller numbers will continue to increase, driving demand for more flights, more aircraft and more pilots – some industry experts are even predicting the next pilot shortage (Source).
So, if an aspiring pilot were to ask me the question; ‘is now a good time to start my pilot training?’ I would answer with some confidence, ‘yes’. Our UK and EASA Integrated ATPL training takes approximately 72 weeks to complete and our FAA programmes approximately 52 weeks. That puts us into 2023 when industry consensus forecasts commercial flying will be back at pre-pandemic levels. That means when you graduate the pilot job market will be much stronger and the industry back into growth.