Has It Finally Happened?For decades, our industry has predicted a future pilot shortage. Is the future finally here? A recent USA Today article said that the pilot shortage is here right now. Citing the aviation job-finding service Air Inc., the article reported that pilot hiring in January was the highest in at least 20 years.
Has the time finally come when both parents and career counselors will urge kids to buckle down, get serious, and become career pilots? Will math teachers now tell their students to study hard so that they can become professional pilots? Perhaps not yet, but why should we wait on them to tell our story? Let's tell it ourselves.
There was a time when deciding to become an airline pilot was a little like deciding to become a movie star. Achieving the goal was more a matter of luck than planning. A career as a pilot was easy to dream about but hard to turn into reality. Things have changed. In today's market, planning and preparation play a bigger role than luck.
Let's pass that word along to our students and potential students. The potential pilot might want to get started now, while things look so good. The private pilot might want to go for higher ratings for the same reasons. Increased demand for pilots doesn't help if you don't have the necessary ratings.
Let's tell our potential customers that airline jobs are not the only opportunities to fly for a living. There are terrific opportunities in air freight, and those opportunities are increasing rapidly. I am scheduled to ride along on a freight run - aboard an Atlas Air Boeing 747 - to Mexico City soon, and I will report back to you on what I find.
Let's tell folks about fractional jet sales and how they have created new business jet jobs, even as the demand for airline pilots has thinned the ranks of qualified pilots available to take these jobs. Let's remind them that aviation publications like this one are full of advertisements seeking flight instructors to work at nationally recognized schools. CFIs are not a dime a dozen anymore.
Am I suggesting that our troubles are gone forever, and that all God's pilots are gonna have good jobs in the future? Am I suggesting that we mislead pilots and potential pilots with promises and guarantees of a rosy future? No. I am merely suggesting that we tell them the truth - the present and future look brighter for professional pilots than at any time within the memory of most of us.
Your competition is already telling that story. Look at the ads in any aviation publication. Flight schools from hither to yon are selling career courses. If you want your share of the market, shouldn't you be spreading the story on your airport and in your community? Make it a point to at least mention career opportunities to every potential customer you meet. Even the avowed pleasure pilot might like to know that someday she might actually have the opportunity to make a living at flying.
The good times are rolling right now, folks. Airplanes are being bought and use is going up, money is being spent, and opportunities abound. These may be the good old days we will be talking about for decades to come. Let's make the most of it.
AOPA members can receive discounts from Air Inc. For more information call 800/JET-JOBS.
By Ralph Hood