Who’s Gonna Fly This Thing?

Major commercial airlines are losing pilots at an alarming rate, meaning a pilot shortage is looming just over the horizon. Though the job itself pays well and offers outstanding benefits, qualifying takes time and a lot of money. Houston aviation attorney Josh Verde says some compromises may be on the way

“You see some things that suggest that we're headed toward maybe a situation where the FAA would sign off on one pilot onboard a plane that carries passengers,” Verde says, “maybe with the help of additional automation.”

Finding a solution will be a big challenge. Margins for the regional carriers are so narrow, giving those pilots gaining experience a bigger paycheck may not be an option. You spend a lot of money, then work for regional carriers at a much-lower wage, before you qualify for a seat in the cockpit of the big planes.

“It's going to be tough to fix this,” he says, “because they simply can't afford to pay regional airline pilots more.”

The major carriers could be needing 15,000 more pilots within 10 years.

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