Why is Pilot Availability a Challenge?
Pilot availability has become a growing concern for aircraft owners for several reasons.
Pilots are in short supply and are now being heavily recruited to join commercial airlines, leaving a smaller pool of available pilots. Airlines are offering high salaries and signing bonuses, making it difficult for individual aircraft owners to compete.
Pilots that do not take commercial airline jobs are taking lucrative ad hoc opportunities, resulting in fewer choices for self-managed owners. Without ready access to pilots, aircraft owners can find themselves grounded when they want to use their jets.
Pilots and crew can’t get required training in a reasonable amount of time due to a nationwide shortage of simulator instructors. Wait times for simulator training have increased from weeks to months and even years in some cases, making it even more difficult for aircraft owners to find and hire qualified crew members.
How Aircraft Owners Can Navigate Pilot Challenges
Analysts predict that the pilot shortage will peak in about 10 years, so this challenge isn't going to be resolved for a while. As an aircraft owner, you can take several steps to navigate the challenge of pilot availability.
Expand Your Crew
Hire a second pilot and more crew. This can be an option, but it comes with higher financial costs and increased energy spent on recruitment and training. If you are self-managing your aircraft, this can require a significant amount of time and money. However, if you want to be sure you can fly whenever you want, expanding your crew is worth considering. This solution will give you peace of mind knowing that you have a backup pilot and crew ready to go when needed.
Hire an Aircraft Management Company
Hiring a professional and experienced aircraft management company provides significant value to aircraft owners. Look for one that offers a strong pilot staffing and training program. Management companies recruit, vet, train, and manage pilots so you don't have to worry about it, ensuring you have a reliable crew whenever you need to fly. By hiring a professional management firm, the burden of finding and managing pilots during the shortage is completely taken off of your shoulders as an aircraft owner.
Encourage Careers in Aviation
Another way to impact the pilot shortage in the long term is to provide support and encouragement to those who may be interested in pursuing aviation careers. For example, the FAA partners with industry affiliates like the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) to support aviation education programs for students of almost every age and grade level. Colleges, trade schools, and universities in your area may also have aviation programs that need support.
The challenge of pilot availability is not going away any time soon, and may even get worse before it gets better. We need to make sure that the next generation of pilots and crew will be ready, willing, and able to keep us flying.