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The Commercial Pilot Shortage and the Future of the Industry

June 9, 2022
by Kent Parrish

We’re living in an interesting period historically where career choices are wider open than they’ve been in decades. You may have heard news about commercial pilot shortages, which has made you start to contemplate becoming a pilot as a career choice. Should you become a commercial pilot?

In the midst of the commercial pilot shortage and with air traffic on an upswing again, many airlines need pilots. There has never been a better time to consider a commercial pilot career.

In this article, we’ll explore how we’ve arrived at this point of a commercial pilot shortage. We’ll also examine in-depth whether the role of a commercial pilot could be the right one for you. If you’re pondering where to take your education and your career, you won’t want to miss this!

Is There a Demand for Commercial Pilots Right Now?

According to the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA in a report published in 2022, the FAA's Air Traffic Organization handles 16,405,000 flights. During peak operational times, there may be as many as 5,400 aircraft in the sky at once.

That data correlates with this graph from Statista, which showcases the number of air traffic passengers flying into or out of the United States between 2006 and 2021.

As that chart illustrates, the airline industry took a major nosedive in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down travel into and out of the United States and much of the world as well.

During this time, many pilots took early retirement because of the decrease in flights. Additionally, in another 2022 article from ABC News, between 2022 and 2029, up to 5,000 additional pilots could retire, and that about half of all pilots in the US will have retired within 15 years.

Combine this with the surge in airline travel demand so far in 2022 from customers and this has resulted in a severe shortage of commercial airline pilots.

Flight delays could also continue to be a more common reality as airlines scramble to find pilots to commandeer a flight.

All this is to say that the commercial airline industry could certainly use more commercial pilots, and soon!

Is a Commercial Pilot a Good Career Path Post-Pandemic?

The pandemic rocked the world, but fortunately, most of the changes weren’t permanent. Many jobs are back, and that includes commercial pilots.

Let’s explore some benefits of pursuing a commercial pilot career in this new post-pandemic world. 

Help More People Travel

The travel industry may have grounded to a halt at the start of the pandemic, but as destination places have reopened and normal life has resumed, people are itching to travel again.

McKinsey, in a summer 2021 report, predicted a “travel boom.” Even in the report, McKinsey questions whether the airline shortages will be able to accommodate demand.

If you enroll in commercial pilot training now, you could help usher in this resurgence of travel for people all over the world.

Job Stability

You’ll also appreciate the job stability of being a commercial airline pilot.  

Whether for work or pleasure (and sometimes both), the trends from the last section show that people will want to continue flying for a long time to come based on historical data.

That means your industry will stay stable. Even as technology evolves, nothing can replace a commercial pilot’s skills and human intuition.

Countless Opportunities to Travel

Most people yearn to take time off work so they can travel the world. For you, traveling the world is a part of your job description.

You might not always get to visit the must-see destinations and drink in the sights like your passengers, but you can certainly say that you’ve been to many of the major places that people have on their traveling bucket lists.

Great Chance to Meet New People

In most office environments, you get to know the people you work with, and that’s your everyday professional social circle.

As a commercial pilot, you’ll have those colleagues as well, but you’ll constantly get put in situations where you get to meet new and exciting people.

You’ll be able to flex your social skills almost as much as you do your piloting skills!

Breathtaking Views

The beauty of this planet thousands of feet up is something that commercial pilots, from their vantage point, are truly fortunate to witness. You’ll renew your gratitude for this globe every time you start the plane. 

Travel Perks

Although this very much depends on which airline hires you, most commercial pilots get to enjoy travel perks. These perks not only apply to themselves but in most cases to loved ones such as immediate family as well.

In some cases, you might be able to reduce flight prices for your favorite people, which will encourage them to travel more.

What Jobs Are There for Commercial Pilots?

Everyone is interested in climbing the career ladder. Should you decide to embark on aviation education to start a career as a commercial pilot, what kinds of jobs could you be hired for?

Let’s take a closer look.

Private and Charter Pilot

Commercial pilots needn’t fly planes for major airlines with thousands of people on board. They can work in a charter or private pilot capacity, transporting only select people.

These charter trips are usually small and can involve flying to some gorgeous and exotic locales. Or, you might be able to stay local as a private or charter pilot.

Overnight flights are infrequent as well, which allows you to carve out more of a work/life balance.

Corporate Pilot

As a corporate pilot, you’d commandeer a company plane and carry its staff where they need to go.

This job role might include both national and international travel, but you could possibly fly a luxury plane, which is great for both pilots and passengers.

Emergency and Rescue Pilot

Although flying people to their destinations is a noble enough career, if you want to become even nobler, then you might look into working as an emergency and rescue pilot.

This role will usually involve more specific training, as you could work with medical personnel to find injured or ill people and transport them to the closest medical facility.

As a rescue pilot, you might seek out people stranded on mountains, cliffs, or in the ocean and get them to safety.

Agricultural Pilot

Companies and government agencies are always looking for agricultural pilots. It’d be your job to spread chemical treatments to crops in large swathes to ensure the crops grow healthy.

Cargo Pilot

Commercial pilots don’t exclusively have to transport people. You can also work as a cargo pilot, sending packages, parcels, and crates to their destinations.

What Is the Commercial Pilot Career Outlook?

To present the viability of a commercial pilot role, let’s look at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS’ insights on this career path.

According to the BLS, between 2020 and 2030, careers for commercial pilots could grow by 13 percent. An estimated 14,700 jobs could be added.

The BLS states that the 2021 median pay for commercial pilots is $134,630 per year!

Considering Commercial Pilot Careers? Where to Enroll

Commercial pilots are more needed than ever as the pilot shortage continues. Everyday travelers will feel the effects unless the gap between retiring pilots and incoming pilots is shortened.

If you’re interested in starting your education to become a commercial flight pilot, California Flight Academy is the school for you.

When you enroll, you’ll earn your professional pilot license in a year or less so you can start your exciting, rewarding career path.

To get started today, give us a call or complete the Request Info form today!

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