Growing demand for air travel means 558,000 pilots will be needed over the next 20 years, according to aerospace giant Boeing. More than half a million new commercial pilots will be needed over the next 20 years, according to Boeing. The aerospace giant is forecasting that growing demand for air travelin China and other developing nations as people become richer and can afford plane tickets will help fuel a boom in air travel. The US company believes that airlines will spend more than $5.6 trillion on 38,000 new passenger jets over the next two decades, as the size of the average commercial fleet doubles.
A forecast 558,000 new pilots will be needed to take the controls of these aircraft, as the number of jets in the air rises and the current generation of fliers come to the end of their careers. The finding came in Boeing’s annual 20-year outlook, and the figure is a 4pc increase on the expected requirement in the previous year’s survey. In addition to those navigating the aircraft through the skies, a further 609,000 engineers will be needed to keep the jets airworthy, a rise of 5pc on last year.
Sherry Carbary, vice-president of Boeing flight services, which offers pilot training, said that demand was such that the aviation industry would have to work together to produce enough certified fliers to take the controls of new jets and engineers to keep them flying. “The challenge of meeting the global demand for airline professionals will not be solved by one company alone,” she said. “Aircraft manufacturers, airlines, training equipment manufacturers, training delivery organisations, regulatory agencies and educational institutions are all stepping up to meet the increasing need to train and certify pilots and technicians.”
However, airline unions have previously warned people not to abandon their day jobs and retrain as pilots in the belief that the industry is crying out for fliers. Research by the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) has previously highlighted the £75,000 to £100,000 cost of gaining a commercial licence, and the fact that it has more than 500 pilots among its members who are unable to find work. Wendy Pursey, head of membership and career services at balpa, said: "Airlines have not been recruiting in the last few years and the flying schools are still qualifying pilots each year adding to the pilot pool – these tend to have around 195 hours of actual and simulator flying and do not have the required hours to gain their first commercial pilot job. "The costs and risks associated with becoming an airline pilot today have risen exponentially. In the past, many experienced commercial pilots trained with the air force, and even those pilots who had to self-fund their licence did so under far more favourable economic conditions. They also had the security of knowing that successful completion of their training would lead to a permanent employment contract."
For those who do land a job with a flag-carrier airline, the rewards can be attractive. Newly qualified pilots serving as a first officer can expect to earn almost £30,000 a year before allowances, a figure which will more than double as a captain. Pay rates are lower at budget airlines, and some use zero-hours contracts. Boeing predicts that, on an annual basis, an average of 28,000 new pilots will be needed each year and 30,000 technicians. Demand is expected to be strongest in the Asia Pacific region, with 226,000 pilots and 238,000 engineers required over the next 20 years. In Europe there is expected to be a call for 95,000 pilots and 101,000 technicians over the period, and for North America the figures are 95,000 and 113,000 respectively.