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Why You Should Become a Pilot, Pilot Demand, Pilot Shortage !

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Flying Instructor and Student Pilots
Pilot Training

The aviation industry has been facing a persistent and pressing issue in recent years: a severe pilot shortage that first emerged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2020 and has continued into 2021 and beyond, with no signs of abating in 2023. This article aims to delve into the underlying causes of this shortage, pinpoint the regions that are most acutely affected, and illuminate the promising opportunities that this situation presents for individuals aspiring to become pilots.

Causes of the Pilot Shortage

Retirements: One of the primary reasons behind the pilot shortage is the wave of retirements within the industry. As the baby boomer generation, a significant portion of the pilot population, reaches retirement age, there is a mass exodus of experienced pilots leaving the workforce. This exodus creates a void that is challenging to fill with an adequate number of qualified replacements.

High Training Costs: The aviation industry demands substantial financial investment in pilot training. Aspiring pilots face hefty expenses associated with obtaining the necessary licenses and ratings, as well as accumulating flight hours. This financial barrier has deterred many potential candidates from pursuing a career in aviation.

Pandemic Impact: The COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted the aviation sector. Lockdowns, travel restrictions, and reduced passenger demand led to layoffs and furloughs among airline personnel, including pilots. The pilot workforce faced unprecedented challenges, with many finding themselves temporarily or permanently out of work.

Training Disruptions: Flight training programs were significantly impacted by the pandemic. Aspiring pilots struggled to access training facilities, accumulate required flight hours, and obtain necessary certifications due to safety protocols and logistical hurdles. This disrupted the pipeline of new pilots entering the industry.

Pilot Shortage Statistics in 2023

To gain a better understanding of the pilot shortage, let’s examine some relevant statistics. According to a report by Boeing, it is projected that the global aviation industry will require over 600,000 new pilots over the next two decades to meet the growing demand for air travel. However, this projection has been called into question due to the impact of the pandemic on the industry.

The report also highlights regional variations in pilot demand. Asia-Pacific is expected to have the highest pilot demand, followed by North America and Europe. These regions are experiencing rapid growth in air travel, driven by factors such as expanding middle-class populations, increasing urbanization, and rising disposable incomes.

In terms of retirements, the report suggests that around 40% of the current pilot population will reach the mandatory retirement age in the next 10 years. This retirement wave exacerbates the pilot shortage and underscores the need to attract and train new pilots to fill the impending void.

Pilot Shortage value
How long will the pilot shortage last ?

Addressing the Pilot Shortage

To address the pilot shortage, the aviation industry must take proactive measures. Firstly, there is a need to make pilot training more accessible and affordable. This could involve partnerships between airlines, flight schools, and financial institutions to provide funding options and scholarships for aspiring pilots. Governments can also play a role by offering incentives and subsidies to reduce the financial burden on pilot trainees.

Additionally, the industry needs to promote aviation as an attractive career option. Efforts should be made to raise awareness about the benefits of being a pilot, such as competitive salaries, travel opportunities, and career progression. Collaboration between airlines, educational institutions, and aviation organizations can help to showcase the rewards and excitement of a pilot’s life, encouraging more individuals to pursue a career in aviation.

Furthermore, it is essential to streamline the pilot licensing process and ensure that regulatory requirements align with industry needs. This can involve revisiting licensing standards, exploring alternative pathways for pilot training, and implementing efficient and standardized procedures for license conversion between different countries.

The pilot shortage is a complex issue that has been exacerbated by factors such as retirements, the cost of training, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The aviation industry needs to address these challenges through initiatives that make pilot training more accessible, promote aviation as a rewarding career, and streamline the licensing process. By taking proactive measures, the industry can mitigate the pilot shortage and ensure a steady supply of qualified pilots to meet the growing demand for air travel in the years to come.

Impacted Regions

The pilot shortage is not evenly distributed globally; certain regions are experiencing its effects more acutely than others:

Asia-Pacific: This region is witnessing the highest demand for pilots due to its rapidly growing middle-class population, urbanization, and increasing disposable incomes. The need for pilots in Asia-Pacific is particularly pronounced.

North America: North America, including the United States and Canada, is also facing a substantial pilot shortage. Aging pilot demographics and ongoing demand for air travel contribute to this challenge.

Pilot Demand Comparison 2020-2032 chart in North America
Pilot Demand Versus in North America 2020-2032

Europe: Europe is grappling with pilot shortages, especially in the wake of the pandemic. The continent's diverse airline landscape and continued demand for air travel make it another region in need of qualified pilots.

Opportunities for Aspiring Pilots

Despite the challenges posed by the pilot shortage, there are promising opportunities for individuals who aspire to become pilots:

Increased Demand: The sustained pilot shortage means that there will be a consistent demand for qualified pilots in the coming years. Airlines are actively seeking new talent to fill the gaps left by retirements and pandemic-related disruptions.

Financial Support: Some airlines and training programs offer financial assistance and scholarships to help aspiring pilots overcome the high costs of training.

Accelerated Training Programs: To meet the demand for pilots, many flight schools and training centers have introduced accelerated training programs. These programs enable aspiring pilots to complete their training more quickly and enter the workforce sooner.

the pilot shortage in 2023 is a multifaceted issue with deep-rooted causes, regional variations, and opportunities for those looking to embark on a career in aviation. While the challenges are real, the demand for pilots remains strong, making this an opportune time for individuals with a passion for aviation to pursue their dreams of becoming pilots.

Career Advancement

The fact that there are not enough pilots also presents accelerated career advancement opportunities. As airlines strive to fill positions, motivated current airline pilots can progress through the ranks more swiftly, gaining valuable experience and assuming higher positions within flight operations. A regional airline may offer more frequent upgrades to higher positions, such as becoming a captain, due to its operational requirements and pilot supply-demand dynamics.

Competitive Salaries and Benefits of Airline Pilots

To attract more pilots, airlines have been offering more competitive salaries and benefits packages. This enhances the financial rewards and job security associated with a career as a pilot, making it an appealing choice for those considering this profession.

It is a normal practice that as the demand grows for airline and commercial pilots, the price increases, which is why the pilot salaries are affected by the pilot shortage. Oliver Wyman has estimated that there has been an 86% in regional airlines and a 35% increase in mainline pay. The graph below compares the figures when air travel collapsed due to covid-19 and current estimates.

Change in Top-Of-Scale Captain Pay Chart
Change in Top-Of-Scale Captain Pay


The pilot shortage experienced in 2023 is a multifaceted issue driven by increased air service demand, an aging pilot workforce, stringent training requirements, and more.

Regions such as North America, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East are among those most impacted by the shortage. Still, Europe can also offer exciting opportunities for future pilots. With the noticeable trend of rising salaries and a growing demand for pilots, now is a great time to take the leap and pursue a career in aviation.


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