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The outlook for aviation employment is better than it has been for decades with thousands of pilot positions expected to open up in the next few years. Exciting opportunities await; prepare for your airline pilot career now.
After four years of stagnant pilot hiring, the US airline industry is on the cusp of the largest hiring surge in history. In fact, the hiring has already begun. In 2010 regional airlines increased their pilot ranks by 4.9% while low cost carriers such as Southwest airlines expanded their pilot positions by 11%. Major airlines employ roughly two-thirds of all pilots working for air carriers and many of them plan to start hiring by the end of 2011. Hiring by major airlines is a powerful force that will have a major impact on pilot hiring throughout the industry.
On the regulatory front, there are two important issues that will directly affect the demand for pilots. First, the FAA recently proposed new regulations that will increase the rest requirements for all commercial pilots. American Airlines, one of the largest US airlines, has stated that they will need to add 2,325 new pilots to comply with the proposed regulations, a 22% increase in their pilot work force. All US airlines will be similarly affected, resulting in significant new hiring across the board.
The second important regulatory issue is the change that occurred in December 2007 which extended the mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots from 60 to 65 years of age. At the time that the new rule went into effect, there was a looming wave of pilot retirements that threatened to paralyze the industry with pilot shortages. The extension of the retirement age effectively held that wave off for five years to December 2011. This means that starting at the end of 2011 the industry will begin to experience a significant exodus of retiring pilots, increasing the demand for new pilots.
There is good news on the global level as well. Boeing recently published its "2011 Pilot and Technician Outlook" which predicts strong growth in pilot employment for the foreseeable future. Boeing's outlook sees the world airline fleet growing to 40,000 airplanes in the next 20 years. This will create a worldwide demand for an average of 23,000 new commercial pilots every year until the end of their study period, 2030. This is a tremendous amount of growth which will put further pressure on hiring in the US as well as around the world.
Not just airline pilot careers are poised to takeoff. The first quarter of 2011 saw an 11.4% year over year rise in business jet hours flown, another important indicator of robust pilot hiring.
Due to the growing need for pilots across the industry, more people will be following their dream to be a pilot. This, coupled with current instructors moving back to the commercial airline industry, will increase the demand for instructor pilots.
The combination of regulatory changes, pilot retirements and airline growth are predicted to converge in a significant pilot hiring boom. Students that start training now will be in the perfect position to ride this wave into the future.