Will A Looming Possible Pilot Shortage Result In Airlines Hiring Sub Par Crew?

The airline industry might be faced with a dearth of new pilots in the next 20 years, which is causing some experts to worry that in the rush to expand their fleets, airlines will end up hiring pilots that aren’t so great just to fill slots. That would not be great for the safety of passengers on commercial jetliners, of course.

Boeing makes a whole lot of planes so it knows its stuff, and it forecasts that around 460,000 new pilots will be needed worldwide between now and 2031 to fly tens of thousands of new planes. Of those, 69,000 will be needed just in North America, most of which will be in the U.S. The area that will grow the most, plane-wise, will be the Asia-Pacific region, which will need around 185,000 new pilots.

The worry is that such a demand around the world for pilots will cause a pilot shortage.

“In many regions of the world, a pilot shortage is already here,” the Boeing forecast said. “Asia Pacific in particular is experiencing delays and operational interruptions due to pilot scheduling constraints.”

Industry officials say in Asia and the Middle East, airlines have been holding pilot job fairs, while in the U.S. thousands of pilots have been laid off and are now flying for foreign carriers.

“We have airlines around the world as they buy our airplanes and come to us on the training side of the house, saying `We’re struggling to fill (pilot) seats. Can you help us?’ ” said Carl Davis, Boeing’s chief of pilot services.

Here in the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration is also worried.

“I’m concerned because it has safety implications,” John Allen, the FAA’s director of flight services, told The Associated Press.

Allen wants to get those in the industry together to figure out how to tackle a potential shortage in a way that will really address the problem and figure out how bad it is. He doesn’t want airlines to hire pilots who are technically qualified to fly but don’t have “the right stuff.”

“If the industry is stretched pretty thin … that can result in someone getting into the system that maybe isn’t really the right person to be a pilot. Not everybody is supposed to be a pilot,” Allen said.

Possible pilot shortage raises safety concerns [Associated Press]