Airline Academy Current Events

Pilot Demand Soon To Outstrip Supply

  • Article by Dave Coward, GM and VP, L3Harris Airline Academy
  • Published
  • Duration 2 minute read

Booming Pilot Demand in the U.S.

A simple Google search serves up numerous articles from respected industry commentators including Oliver Wyman and international media channels such as CNN, Forbes and USA Today on the very real, U.S. pilot shortage. It’s a subject that’s even been tackled at government level in Congress.

U.S. airlines recently started taking positive steps to entice more people into the industry and avoid the ‘tsunami of pilot retirements’, as CNN puts it, by offering increased salaries, sign-on bonuses and clearly defined, often accelerated career paths to Captain.

This is great news for L3Harris student pilots training toward their Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) license, many of whom have been able to take advantage of these employment opportunities through our extensive network of partnerships with U.S. airlines.

It’s also evident in the demand to start training with us, with enquiries and applications at an all-time high and many classes full throughout 2023.

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But is the outlook the same across the pond?

Impending Pilot Shortfall in Europe

Airbus forecast that demand for pilots will be 80 per day over the next 20 years (source: Global Services Forecast (GSF) | 2022-2041 | Airbus Aircraft) with Europe, including the UK, accounting for 20% of the new pilot workforce – the second highest global region behind Asia Pacific. This means the requirement in Europe alone is 16 pilots per day, or 5,840 per year, from now until 2042.

To put that number into context, we are one of the biggest Airline Training Organisations (ATO) in the world in terms of student numbers and we currently graduate approximately 300 UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) licensed pilots per year.

Let’s assume there are a handful of other ATOs with similar capacity to us - that offer the appropriate courses for graduation into an airline role - that’s still only in the region of 1,500 graduate pilots per year, or 25% of the requirement. This gap between supply and demand is driving the fact that 75% of our 2023 graduates are already First Officers on commercial flight decks.

Despite the incredible actions of partner airlines British Airways and TUI to support the drive for under-represented groups, by removing the financial barrier with fully funded programs, it’s safe to say that the current supply of new pilots will not be enough to fulfill Airbus’s predicted demand. It’s a real and present challenge as airlines plan future pilot needs, but an unbelievable opportunity to land a First Officer job in the future for those starting pilot training now.

Why Now?

More than 250 of our graduates have been successful in starting their airline careers so far this year.

So, in summary, while training is a considerable investment both financially and in terms of commitment, career opportunities are extremely positive. Successful graduate placement is a huge part of our training ethos. From day one we prepare students for pilot careers with all the competences and behaviours required - not just the technical skills and knowledge – to be ‘Airline Ready’ pilots. It’s what we’re known for in the industry and thanks to our 20+ airline partnerships and relationships, more than 250 of our graduates have been successful in starting their airline careers so far this year, a career that for many is the fulfilment of a childhood dream.

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What's next?

If you are feeling inspired by this article then we have several others that could be of interest to you. Excited for the next step? Feel free to look at our guides on ‘How to become a pilot’ as well as our FAQs.