Because of the pilot shortage (discussed below), airlines are struggling to hire pilots and instructors to meet the sudden increase in travel demand following the COVID pandemic reductions. They have cancelled thousands of flights because they don't have flight crew available and qualified to fly their aircraft.

After the Vietnam war, airlines were able to fill their increasing pilot ranks with retirees from the military. That source began to dry up as the military were training fewer pilots and offerring incentives for them to remain in the service.

Many airline pilots were reaching the mandatory retirement age when travel suddenly decreased due to the COVID restrictions. In response, airlines offered early retirement and buy-outs. As the restrictions eased and then ended, airlines suddenly found themselves short of the flight personnel needed to respond to the demand--exacerbated by continuing (although reduced) COVID infections. The major airlines responced by offering lucrative pay increases and other attractive "perks" for regional pilots to "move up." The regional airlines, now very short of pilots, offerred pay increases, signing bonuses, and even financial incentives to pilots in training.

This represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young men and women to enter a fulfulling and rewarding carrer. The advertisement at the left is just one example of such an opportunity. The recent increase in student training at Torrance Airport is not unique--it is occurring at hundreds of similar airports all over the country.

It takes thousands of flight hours, hundreds hours of study, many written and practical exams, and great perseverance to earn the FAA certificates in order to qualify as a First Officer, Second in Command (SIC) or Pilot in Command (PIC).

As these positions are filled by the students now in training, the amount of training activity at airports is expected to decrease back to normal levels.

The pilot shortage

statistics & facts published by
Erick BurgueƱo Salas
(Research expert covering mobility and logistics)

April 19, 2022

The aviation sector has been hit in recent times with a growing demand for new pilots as the airline industry continues to experience global shortages in the number of certified pilots. In the next 20 years, airlines in North America alone are going to be in need of around 130,000 new pilots.

Reasons for the shortage
One of the reasons for the experienced shortage in airline pilots is due to the rigorously expensive application process for becoming an airline pilot, especially in the United States. Prospective pilots are personally responsible for securing their own FAA credentials. Over 100,000 U.S. dollars may be spent just for flight training and education thus discouraging others from pursuing a career in the aviation industry.

Another reason for the experienced pilot shortage in the U.S. was the implementation of stricter hiring standards by the FAA for entry-level pilots, after a series of highly publicized airplane accidents. This led to mandating additional certification and higher flight time requirements for prospective pilots.

The pandemic has drastically reduced the number of flights, which had a direct effect on pilots
The coronavirus pandemic had a tremendous impact on the aviation industry, reducing the number of flights by more than half in 2020. This led to a surplus of pilots and airlines having to offer them early retirement packages and letting go of too many flight attendants in order to cut down their costs.

Now that air travel has been catching up, many airlines have been forced into a reduction in the number of flight schedules due to a shortage of pilots and crew, leading to a sudden surge in the number of flight cancellations.

The pilot shortage will be accelerated once the pandemic ends
As the size of the aircraft fleet will continue to increase worldwide, coupled with the recovery of air travel to 2019 levels by 2023, the pilot shortage will be imminent. Additionally, in the next few years, a very large proportion of current pilots will reach retirement age leaving a considerable gap of expertise. Projections show the global pilot shortage could reach 50,000 pilots by 2025.