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Boeing 20-year pilot outlook indicates 20-percent decline

Technician demand down 15 percent through 2040

Boeing Co.’s Pilot and Technician Outlook 2021–2040 lowered predicted pilot hiring numbers by 20 percent since 2020—down to 612,000 from 763,000 forecast in 2020—but the aerospace firm says long-term demand for pilots and aviation personnel “remains strong” despite an “uneven global recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic. Pre-pandemic forecasts in 2019 called for 804,000 flying jobs when the industry faced severe personnel shortages because of retirements and attrition.

Aircraft technician positions fared slightly better with a forecast decline of 15 percent. The revised numbers call for 626,000 maintenance personnel rather than 739,000 forecast in 2020; and 769,000 in 2019.

The latest figures mean there will be 9,600 fewer pilot positions per year and 7,150 fewer maintenance technicians hired to keep the aircraft flying from 2021 through 2040 than were predicted in 2019.

The bright point in the latest report indicates a much smaller drop in the demand for new cabin crew positions. The report says 886,000 cabin support personnel are forecast over the next 20 years rather than the 903,000 predicted in 2020—a drop of less than 2 percent.

Boeing says meeting the projected pilot and technician demand is “wholly dependent on industry’s investment in a steady pipeline of newly qualified personnel to replace those who have left or will soon exit” through retirement, layoffs and furloughs, and attrition. The company added that the global aviation industry “will need to keep a sharp focus and engage in collective efforts” to bolster its ranks. Pursuing a diverse talent pipeline through educational outreach and recruitment, developing new aviation career pathways, investing in early-career learning opportunities, and adopting more efficient learning methods were cited as priorities in the forecast.

Boeing said that the adoption of “increasingly innovative solutions” within the training industry has led to students studying “safely and remotely” using “immersive technologies, adaptive learning, and flexible distance learning methods.”

The company predicted “opportunity for aspiring aviators will abound” but warned aviation businesses that they would “face stiff competition in recruiting and retaining top tier talent” in the decades ahead.

“As commercial operators and training providers look toward the future, we will continue to see investments in artificial intelligence, machine learning and mixed reality that will help tomorrow’s students more quickly, efficiently and effectively close their knowledge gaps. This will lead to a better, safer and more efficient aviation industry,” the report said.

David Tulis

David Tulis

Content Producer
AOPA Media Content Producer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.
Topics: Career

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