Is there a clearly identifiable and measurable pilot shortage right now? If so, is it a shortage of pilots or of captains, i.e. more experienced pilots? Are airlines changing any personnel rules - like time to go from first officer to captain - that would imply there is a pilot shortage?

If any shortage is for captains couldn't airlines 'upgrade' first officers to fill the places? But presumably that would create a shortage of FOs in turn.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Who says there's a pilot shortage? $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2016 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, for those that don't want to answer...just don't waste your time. Cheers. $\endgroup$
    – mizzu
    Jul 28, 2016 at 14:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If there is a shortage then the cost of pilots will increase. If pilot salaries, paid benefits, paid training, paid holidays etc. are increasing, then pilots are in increasing demand. That's probably the clearest way to identify a shortage. In theory airlines in one country could handle a shortage without increasing wages by importing pilots from other, cheaper countries - i.e. increasing the supply - but that should also be identifiable somehow, e.g. more working visas issued to pilots. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jul 28, 2016 at 14:56
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ mizzu, it isn't that people don't want to answer, but rather that your question is too broad to have an actual definitive answer. As the first comment on your question asks, Which country are you even talking about? As he also says, our site is not designed or intended for open ended discussions, but rather for questions which can have a rather specific narrow definitive answer (Aviation SE is not a forum, but rather a Q&A site). Please read How to Ask and look around our help center for more info. This site is a great resource, but is for a different purpose than what you may be used to! $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Jul 28, 2016 at 15:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "Yes there is a pilot shortage": If you're not under a NDA, maybe you could share your source to make the question less open. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jul 28, 2016 at 15:29

2 Answers 2


Here in the US (because this varies around the world) some sources do say there is a pilot shortage. There are many reasons that have been cited for the decrease in pilots here in the states. But the main points seem to be,

  • Rising Costs of training
  • FAA upping the required hours (250 -1500) for a full ATP ticket
  • Lower conversion from military pilots (there was a time when many of the commercial pilots out there were former service pilots)
  • Lower Salary Prospects: its no mystery that pilots don't make what they once did nor get the perks they once did.

Another factor that effects this once you are in the industry is the fact that "seniority" does not transfer over from airline to airline. Generally this is not an issue if you work for someone like American or Delta who have plenty of jobs and steady routes. But if you are captain at NotSoWellEstablishedAir and they go belly up you will most likely join one of the others lower in the ranks if not at the bottom.

Another thing that is worth mentioning is that it may be more advantageous for a pilot to remain a very senior first officer instead of becoming a very junior captain. You may have more power over your route choice, time off, and general schedule as a senior first officer than as a newly minted captain. For some pilots, like those who may be trying to start a family this may be seen as an advantage.

As for the shortage over seas (outside the US) that stems from different issues. First and foremost many countries have seen great and more importantly fast economic prosperity which has allowed them to get into the aviation game. A game traditionally filled with high costs and heavy regulations. As such many newly wealthy nations have been able to enter the aviation world much faster than their regulations and training programs can keep up with. The FAA is almost 60 years old with aviation regulations dating back to the 30's with the CAA. There are even some american issued pilots licensed signed by the Wrights them selves from the very early days. Other countries simply don't have the history of growing with aviation like the US and similar countries have had. Thus they have all these new planes but no one to fly them and no well established programs and regulations to create the pilots. In turn they are forced to import trained, certified pilots from elsewhere.

  • $\begingroup$ Wasn't the reason for increasing the requirement a huge surplus of pilots leading to absurdly low wages for F/Os on regional airlines? (Note: they didn't change requirement for ATPL, they changed the requirement for F/O to need full ATPL) $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jul 28, 2016 at 18:53

I'll put it this way: There wouldn't be a pilot shortage if the pay was right and regulators would stop putting in place roadblocks to professional airline pilot training like the asinine 1500 hour rule for first officers.

The saddest thing about this nation's corps of professional pilots is that it's a profession of people who absolutely love what they do and are exploited and treated as wage slaves by company brass who know this.

At this point, though, things are beginning to change in the USA. The airlines are faced with a glut of senior captains over 65 now and forced to take mandatory retirement. With typical starting salaries for regional FOs being about \$18-\$22k based upon a realistic calculation of pay, being on duty for 14-16 hours a day, and forced to live in crowded apartments with several other pilots, it's no wonder that people pursuing a career as a professional pilot have dwindled. This in contrast with the rising demand for pilots has created a situation where the airlines have no choice but to act. Salaries are being increased, and many airlines are adopting their own flight training programs where they cover the costs to train promising candidates in exchange for a mandatory employment contract for an agreed upon length of time (usually about 7 or so years).

  • $\begingroup$ Sure. The mandatory requirement for 1500 flight hours was a direct result of the crash of Colgan Air 3407, in Buffalo. The NTSB lists the official cause of the crash to be the Capt. Renslow's inappropriate response to the stick shaker leading to aerodynamic stall of the airplane. It also lists crew fatigue as one of the major factors leading to the crash as well. $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2016 at 14:44
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry but that is your opinion, not what I have asked. I'll rephrase: is there any study that shows that the 1500 hours requirement is detrimental or does not provide any benefit? Because if we have to bring opinions, I could argue that inappropriate responses can be a product of inexperience. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Jul 28, 2016 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ Accidents are caused by event chains; if one link fails, there is no accident. Here you had 1) A low time CAPTAIN with mediocre aptitude at airmanship 2) an ill first officer 3) both are exhausted and fatigued from a long duty shift, which the FO comments there were no other viable financial alternatives for her (See the CVR transcript). 4) Both crew were paid less than 30k annually, limiting their living and commuting options further. $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2016 at 14:51
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You make a reasonable case, but it's still your opinion. We try to give answers that are factual and supported by sources and studies, rather than opinions. Also remember that the question is about whether there is a pilot shortage, not the causes of it. $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2016 at 16:13
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is a Q&A website. Your post does NOTHING to answer the question. $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Jul 29, 2016 at 1:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .