How the Aviation Industry Faces a Post-Covid Pilot Shortage

Amidst the aftermath of Covid-19, a burgeoning pilot deficit looms prominently on the aviation horizon

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The Global Aircraft Pilot Shortage Is Real

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a lingering pilot shortage continues to cast a shadow over the aviation industry. As we navigate through the endemic phase, the aviation landscape is undergoing profound transformations. Unlike any other catastrophe in history, the pandemic’s enduring impact on the global aviation industry is unmistakable. Whether individuals, corporations, or governments, entities of all sizes will have to address the persisting global pilot shortage. The triumphant emergence of those possessing talent, determination, agility, and innovation will be paramount. Filling the cockpit with a substantial number of qualified pilots is an imperative. This shortage looms even larger on the horizon, with the endemic phase firmly in place.

Navigating Short-Term Challenges

While McKinsey & Co. sheds light on the evolving landscape of commercial aviation post-Covid-19, they also highlight potential drawbacks:

  • A shift from business to leisure travel.
  • Escalating debts leading to higher ticket prices.
  • Widening disparities in airline performance.
  • Potential oversupply of aircraft.
  • Airfreight undercapacity amid robust demand.

These insights offer valuable perspectives on necessary actions to mitigate these challenges.

Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, a division of the Allianz group, shares similar sentiments in the post-Covid-19 scenario. Their perspectives on business passengers and cargo align closely with McKinsey’s.

Déjà Vu: The Pilot Shortage Returns?

photo by renan on unsplash

Despite familiarity, the pilot shortage in the post-pandemic period presents a challenge that’s not easy to grasp. The real challenge lies in the shortage of pilot supply. Can the return of pilots from furloughs and layoffs bridge the gap? Can the intensive flight training that took place in flight schools pre-Covid serve as an additional source of qualified future pilots? It’s a conundrum, and yet the shortage of pilots remains a major concern for airlines.

Investing In Pilot Training 2023 & Beyond: Still Essential

The significant challenge looms for commercial aviation, especially airlines, in the near to mid-term post-Covid-19 pandemic: the pilot shortage. A stark reality for airlines, this presents an opportunity for those involved in the resource supply chain. The aviation industry and airlines must explore avenues to source future pilots “outside of normal conventions.”

photo by tuendebede on pixabay

The collaboration of flight schools, flying clubs, and recreational flying to pool their resources is a positive step in the right direction. A deliberate effort to utilize all available resources is necessary to counter the looming pilot shortage and narrow the gap. Airlines must actively participate in such initiatives to ensure that the end product of these flying programs for future pilots is not left to the interpretation of unscrupulous and irresponsible actors.

The requirements for elevating flying skills from recreational to professional pilot status are already in place in many regulatory jurisdictions. The aviation community, to some extent, has recognized this. There are existing programs to transition student pilots through the private pilot, commercial, and instructor flying phases. Airlines assume control of the final support link for employment. United and Delta airlines serve as examples of advocates for this concept.

Airlines and flight training schools meticulously design and oversee the program from its inception. Some flight training cost offset is derived when a trainee pilot acquires their Commercial Pilot License and progresses to acquire the knowledge and skills of a flight instructor. The flight instructor benefits from the accumulation of flying hours to meet the requirements of an airline line pilot, contributing to the endeavor.

photo by kora xian on unsplash.

Alternative Pilot Training & Progression: Already in Place

The progression of a student through their Private Pilot License and Commercial Pilot License phases in the training cycle is clearly defined by the Civil Aviation Authorities of most countries. Developed countries have also established a support system for recreation and sports flying as an entry-level path to learning to fly. This involves a further transition into a Private Pilot License qualification, but the entry-level costs of learning to fly are significantly lower than enrolling in a flight school. Through the accumulation of flight hours on solo flights as a Pilot in Command, an alternative, less expensive route to ultimately earning a Commercial Pilot License is attainable.

Maiden CH601 HD built by the original ESB Flying Club in 1997. Photo By ESBAVIATION VENTURES

In many developing nations, the steep expenses associated with aircraft access and flight training have emerged as a primary impediment to aspiring aviators. Yet, within this challenge lies a golden opportunity for aviation visionaries to establish cost-effective entry points for aviation enthusiasts. The proliferation of affordable kit aircraft and Light Sport Aircraft paints a promising picture, potentially mitigating the persistent pilot deficit, especially in the medium to long run.

This solution, bolstered by a well-defined framework that upholds stringent flight safety measures, empowers aviation enthusiasts to embark on their aerial endeavors. It sets the stage for an exhilarating journey through the perpetual thrills and trials of the aviation realm.

We value and eagerly await your invaluable insights, feedback, and constructive criticism. Feel free to reach out to us at

Mohd Raffick Bin Mohd Nor

An extremely passionate veteran aviator and Aircraft Engineer. He has been involved with youth development in aviation for more than 50 years. Currently the principal contributor and founder of the The Budding Aviator’s Hub

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