Baby Boomer Retirements Leading to Pilot Shortage


U.S. airlines are scrambling to hire pilots as thousands of baby boomers prepare to retire.

According to a recent report by Cowen & Company, 117,000 new pilots will need to be hired over the next 20 years to meet the growing demand. The number worldwide is closer to 637,000.

Some flight trainers argue many young people just aren't interested in flying planes, and those who are have been misled by video games and virtual reality technology.

“I get a number of applicants that come in here and they talk about the flight simulator and that's great, but when they get up in the airplane they find out it takes a lot of work and effort to fly an airplane,” says Robert Cunningham, owner and operator of Conroe-based Lone Star Flight Training.

He believes the airline industry as a whole is suffering.

“We need to do a much better job in getting the message out to young people of the career opportunities of flying airplanes and also maintaining them and taking care of customers,” he says.

Cunningham says he has spoken with several Houston-area school districts to develop a co-op class on flying, similar to auto shop classes. Some smaller airlines are offering a monetary incentive to attract and retain pilots.

“A lot of these regional airlines are providing bonuses, anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 depending on which carrier you work for,” he says. “So the salaries are not.


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