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Boeing forecasts need for 2.1 million aviation professionals

Demand continues for airline pilots, technicians, and cabin crew

The commercial aviation industry (minus business aviation and helicopter operations) will need 602,000 new pilots, 610,000 new technicians, and 899,000 new cabin crew personnel globally over the next 20 years, Boeing announced in its Pilot and Technician Outlook 2022 – 2041 on July 26.

Future pilot recruiters had no shortage of interested people to talk to at EAA AirVenture. Photo by Alyssa J. Cobb.

The professionals will be needed to fly, maintain, and staff the cabins of different generations of aircraft, including 41,170 new jets over the next two decades, according to the company’s commercial outlook. Many technicians will reach retirement eligible age in the next five to 10 years, and those entering the profession will need to maintain multiple generations of aircraft.

Boeing lowered the forecast for pilots by 10,000 from its 2021 report to this year, but the company also noted that it excluded data from Russia and Central Asia in the new outlook.

The demand for pilots is being driven by a return to airline travel after the coronavirus pandemic, Boeing said. In addition, 25 percent of airline pilots will reach the mandatory age 65 retirement within the next 10 years.

Chris Broom, vice president of commercial training for Boeing Global Services, briefed the media July 26 on  the company's latest long-term forecast of pilot and technician demand. Photo by Alyssa J. Cobb.“Now the challenge is going out and inspiring, developing, and training that next generation of pilots,” said Chris Broom, vice president of commercial training solutions for Boeing Global Services, during a media roundtable at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin.

“You have to expand the pipeline, and to do that you have to attract people to aviation who never thought it was possible. And they didn’t think it was possible because of, one, finances or ,two, where they grew up they didn’t know any pilots.”

Broom said U.S. airlines lag behind airlines around the world in offering detailed early career training programs, but added that many are starting to offer those kinds of programs. Flow-through programs from general aviation to the regionals and majors are available now too, to really help define a career path for pilots.

“We’re committed to providing customers with an approach that delivers competency based training and solutions,” Broom said. Competency based training and assessment (CBTA) can be overlaid on a Part 61 or Part 141 program and provides a bridge “from whatever you’ve learned as a commercial, CFI, CFII when moving into an airline.” Boeing also offers a bridge course that allows pilots “to get time in a 737 simulator before you ever go to the airlines, that’s all part of our CBTA program.”

Kani Gutter has her eyes set on an aviation degree and an airline career. Photo by Alyssa J. Cobb.“The career path with airline training programs is really well defined now,” Broom explained. “Most young men and women are going and learning all the way through their commercial, CFI, CFII and then at that point to build time to get to 1,500 hours we’re seeing different paths. Mostly flight instructors, we’re seeing other general aviation aircraft, business jets, whatever it might be to get to that 1,500 hours, which is the golden opportunity, then join a regional. Many of them have flow-through programs that go straight into a main line or major airline once you hit a seniority number. That doesn’t prevent you from applying ahead of that, so even as you upgrade to captain or you get enough first [officer] time to apply for a major, you can do it then. We also feel like military is always a great option as well to go learn to fly and get that experience to be able to go to a major airline down the road.”

To expose more young people to aviation career options, Boeing provides free entry to AirVenture for children 18 and under. In addition, the company welcomed young members from the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) at its pavilion at Boeing Plaza.

Kani Gutter, a member of OBAP, has her eyes set on a degree in aviation and an airline career.

“Since a really young age, I’ve loved traveling,” Gutter said. “And I realized that I could be a commercial pilot for some of the big airlines. That really is my end goal.”

Gutter has flown two airplanes so far, and is looking into flight training as soon as she turns 16.

Dozens of universities, airlines, and other aviation companies are on site at AirVenture in the Aviation Gateway Park, a section of the show dedicated to building aviation careers.

Dean Bob Kraus, the aeronautical education leader at the University of North Dakota, said enrollment is up at the university as demand for professional pilots has increased. Photo by Alyssa J. Cobb. University of North Dakota, one of the major aviation universities exhibiting in the Aviation Gateway Park with an airplane and a helicopter, brought staff to talk with high schoolers, alumni, and others at AirVenture. UND Dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences Bob Kraus said enrollment is up at the university as demand for professional pilots has increased.

“This past year compared to 2015, we’ve seen a 40-percent increase in our enrollment over that time,” said Kraus. “We’re at the point now though that we have had to institute a cap on enrollment and actually start to reduce it a little bit to maintain the quality of the program so that we can continue operating into the future. Right now, we have 100 aircraft and our student enrollment, I think we have 1,200 to 1,300 students on the flight line.”

Enrollment is also growing at California Aeronautical University.

“We are really excited about all the students that are starting this fall, and we just see all kinds enthusiasm for building aviation professions,” said CAU President Matt Johnston. “We’re here to make them professionals and go out and serve all these big needs in the market.”

Aspiring professional pilots can get advice about building their career in aviation from Johnston and JSfirm.com at noon Central time on July 30 in the AOPA Program Pavilion.

California Aeronautical University joined many aviation educators staging aircraft in Oshkosh to help catch the eyes of future students at EAA AirVenture. Photo by Alyssa J. Cobb.
Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Cobb

AOPA Senior Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor
AOPA Senior Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Cobb began working at AOPA in 2004, is a flight instructor, and loves flying her Cessna 170B with her husband and son. Alyssa is also co-host of AOPA Live This Week.
Topics: Career, EAA AirVenture

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