Boeing’s Pilot and Technician Outlook 2020–2039 cites a drop in demand of 41,000 pilots and 30,000 technicians from the 2019 forecast because of “a temporary oversupply of qualified personnel” driven by the COVID-19 pandemic but predicts “the long-term need remains robust.”
Although the new report no longer predicts “unprecedented” global demand for pilots, educators and aviation career specialists have concurred that the aviation world is seeing one of the industry’s cyclical downturns, with recommendations to aviators embarking on professional pathways to stay the course and continue their training.
Boeing’s report says it will “take around three years for commercial air travel to return to 2019 levels” but notes that “business aviation is currently in the midst of a robust recovery.” Retirements and other vacancies should leave “openings that will need to be filled by furloughed and new aviators. Additionally, as airplanes are brought out of storage, thousands of labor hours will need to be spent to ensure proper maintenance.”
Educators, flight schools, and aviation businesses have come to rely on the outlook to tailor their enrollment, training, and resources.
In previous years, the report was released during EAA AirVenture, but the 2020 event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, the aviation industry was experiencing a shortage of qualified pilots, technicians, and cabin crew members that was predicted to continue growing; however, that was tempered by recent events, restrictions, and a reluctance for leisure travel.
The new outlook calls for 763,000 pilots and 739,000 maintenance technicians worldwide compared to 804,000 and 769,000, respectively, from the 2019 report. The new figures account for a 5-percent reduction in pilots and a 3.9-percent reduction in technicians. The expectations for cabin crew positions decreased about 1.2-percent from 914,000 to 903,000.
In late June, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University flight school students that he remained optimistic about the future of air travel and encouraged them to continue pursuing aviation and aerospace career paths.
Aviation jobs website JSfirm.com, an AOPA Partner, agreed. The company said in a news release there were “reasons to be hopeful that the aviation industry is going to bounce back” in the long run despite furloughs, early retirements, and other personnel cutbacks as airlines tighten their belts in the near future.
Though the overall demand for qualified aviators, mechanics, and cabin crew has shrunk, the Boeing report “will produce confidence across the aviation industry,” predicted Abbey Hutter, executive director of JSfirm.com. She added that job seekers inquiring about aviation positions are “increasing exponentially, and we have hundreds of companies that are actively hiring. As the industry continues to recover, we will see the demand for aviation professionals return to their pre-COVID levels.”
A Boeing executive summary reiterates that “meeting the projected long-term demand” for aviation positions “will require a collective effort across the global aviation industry” as “tens of thousands of pilots, technicians and cabin crew members reach retirement age over the next decade.” The company says educational outreach and career pathway programs “will be essential to inspiring and recruiting the next generation.”