Tue, Sep 20, 2011 - Page 11 News List

Asia faces pilot shortage: Boeing

AP, HONG KONG and PARIS

Airplane maker Boeing Co warned yesterday that Asia faced a shortfall of new pilots needed to meet surging demand for air travel and that it would get harder to recruit because the profession is no longer desirable.

Boeing predicts that the Asia--Pacific region will need 182,300 new pilots from this year to 2030, with about two-fifths of that demand coming from China. The region will also need nearly 250,000 new aircraft technicians over the same period, based on long-term aircraft demand forecasts.

About 60,500 pilots and 46,500 technicians now work in Asia. The new pilots and technicians would be needed to fill new jobs as well as replace retiring workers.

However, Roei Ganzarski, chief customer officer at Boeing’s flight services division, warned that demand for jets and air travel in Asia is already outpacing growth in “provision of pilots and mechanics.”

“It’s gotten to a point where here in the Asia-Pacific we’ve already heard of a few airlines that have already reduced their operations or even grounded airplanes because they don’t have the people to fly them,” in places such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines, Ganzarski said. He did not name specific airlines.

Ganzarski said Boeing would try harder to attract young people into the aviation profession because the industry is not seen as glamorous anymore.

“We’re not as sexy as we used to be,” he said, adding that young people these days are more interested in working at companies such as Google and Microsoft.

Airlines have been scrambling to set up low-budget airlines in Asia to grab an ever bigger market share as more people join the ranks of the middle classes and can afford to travel.

Singapore Airlines Ltd, Thai Airways International and Japan’s All Nippon Airways are all setting up budget carriers that are expected to start flights next year. Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd is also setting up two new Asian airlines.

Meanwhile, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus said it expects the world’s passenger fleet to more than double over the next 20 years in order to keep up with the demands of an increasingly wealthy population in the developing world.

Airbus forecast that the world would need 27,800 new planes by 2030. About a third of those would replace old planes, so it expects the passenger fleet to more than double to 31,500 aircraft at a cost of US$3.5 trillion.

Much of the increase in traffic is expected to happen in Asia, particularly on domestic flights within India and China.

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