Wed, Jun 21, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Lack of pilots may hinder growth

Reuters, NEW YORK

Employees remove the cockpit window covers from an Embraer SA E195-E2 during the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget in Paris, France, yesterday. The show, which is the world’s largest aviation and space industry exhibition, runs until Sunday.

Photo: Bloomberg

The worldwide commercial aviation industry needs an additional 255,000 pilots by 2027 to sustain its rapid growth, according to a 10-year forecast published by training company CAE Inc yesterday.

More than half of the necessary pilots have not yet begun training, the report concluded, as the industry braces for an increase in passenger air traffic that is likely to double the size of the commercial air transport industry in the next 20 years.

“Rapid fleet expansion and high pilot retirement rates create a further need to develop 180,000 first officers into new airline captains, more than in any previous decade,” said the report by CAE, which trains pilots for airlines around the world.

Pilot unions in the US have said low wages and scarce benefits for entry-level positions are deterring a new generation of potential aviators from pursuing the field.

In the US, training requirements also are a hurdle for many would-be pilots.

The US is the only nation to require copilots to have at least 1,500 flight hours unless they have experience flying planes in the military or are graduates of certain specialized programs.

According to the UN aviation agency, which sets global standards typically adopted by regulators from its 191 member nations, it takes a minimum of about 250 hours to obtain a commercial pilot license for work as a copilot.

By contrast, 1,500 hours is the minimum time required to become a captain under norms set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the UN agency that supports the development of global aviation.

While the US Federal Aviation Administration had previously followed those norms, the 1,500-hour requirement for copilots was imposed following the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407, a regional jet, in 2009 that killed 50 people.

The 1,500-hour mandate is supported by pilots’ unions as a way to improve air safety, but regional airlines and some aviation experts say the tougher standard does not make flying any safer, and has exacerbated the pilot shortage by making the training process longer and more costly.

“The idea was that you would fly a year or two as a paid copilot and then become a captain when you had the 1,500 hours,” one aviation source familiar with the matter said. “Now you have to get the 1,500 hours before you get the first paycheck.”

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