According to Future and Active Pilot Advisors, 11,372 pilots were hired by the 12 major airlines from January through October. FAPA projects about 13,500 pilots will be hired by year end, making 2022 the best year on record for pilot hiring. The record was previously set in 2021, with 5,426 pilots hired, numbers not seen since the year 2000.
Although hiring numbers are nearly 2.5 times higher than the industry has ever seen, those numbers still fall nearly 5,000 pilots short of the U.S Department of Labor’s projected need for the industry to hire 18,100 pilots to offset annual airline pilot attrition.
JSfirm.com, a free online resource for aviation job seekers and employers, has seen an 11.5-percent increase in job postings in the past month, along with a nearly 40-percent increase in employer engagement and more than a 66-percent increase in job searches year to date. Over 270,000 pilots on JSfirm.com requested they be contacted with job notifications.
Sam Scanlon of JSfirm.com said hiring numbers are continuing to climb and the industry is seeing a steady increase in job postings that seems unaffected by inflation and the current economic situation; right now, there are an average of two-and-a-half opportunities per available job seeker.
“We help companies identify available talent then reach out to those job seekers to come apply for the company’s position,” Scanlon said. “This is driving applications immediately. This is where we see company offerings, sign on bonus’, schedule, housing, etc. Companies literally can’t keep up with the competitiveness of what each [is] offering.”
Boeing’s latest Pilot and Technician Outlook estimates “602,000 new pilots, 610,000 new maintenance technicians, and 899,000 new cabin crew members will be needed to fly and maintain the global commercial fleet over the next 20 years.” Scanlon added that Boeing’s report had softened its number of needed mechanics and pilots into 2040, which indicates some progress in filling the pipeline.
Flight schools race to meet demand
“Flight schools and colleges in particular are struggling to provide assets for students, as well as flight instructors,” Scanlon said. “Airline hiring is creating a continued void here.”
To answer the call, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) is expanding its virtual reality program to better prepare students for flight training in the real thing. Freshmen studying aeronautical science spend their first four weeks on campus fully immersed in VR to get comfortable with the aircraft, preflight checks, and controls.
“Frontloading the program with VR in this way also builds students’ confidence and reduces their anxiety, which is the main barrier to learning, before they ever set foot in a flight deck,” said Ken Byrnes, flight department chair and assistant dean of the College of Aviation. “That’s why the university is renewing its commitment to VR this fall, adding two additional simulation stations that will increase the lab’s total from eight to 10 units.”
“Essentially, we’ve increased capacity by increasing efficiency,” Byrnes continued. “When students are in these virtual environments, it is real to them. They sacrifice nothing in terms of educational quality.”
According to ERAU, the VR training regimen for all flight students reduced the amount of time for student pilots to make it to their first solo flight by 30 percent in the program’s first year.
California Aeronautical University has also seen an uptick in student enrollments and opened its larger San Diego training facility in September of this year.