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Airlines Face Acute Pilot Shortage 421

Posted by Soulskill
from the that-guy-from-Wings-probably-needs-work dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The WSJ reports that U.S. airlines are facing their most serious pilot shortage since the 1960s. Federal mandates are taking effect that will require all newly hired pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of prior flight experience — six times the current minimum. This raises the cost and time to train new fliers in an era when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already have made the profession less attractive. Meanwhile, thousands of senior pilots at major airlines soon will start hitting the mandatory retirement age of 65. 'We are about four years from a solution, but we are only about six months away from a problem,' says Bob Reding, recently retired executive vice president of operations at AMR Corp. A study by the University of North Dakota's aviation department indicates major airlines will need to hire 60,000 pilots by 2025 to replace departures and cover expansion over the next eight years. Meanwhile, only 36,000 pilots have passed the Air Transport Pilot exam in the past eight years, which all pilots would have to pass under the Congressionally imposed rules, and there are limits to the ability of airlines, especially the regional carriers, to attract more pilots by raising wages. While the industry's health has improved in recent years, many carriers still operate on thin profit margins, with the airlines sandwiched between rising costs for fuel and unsteady demand from price-sensitive consumers. 'It certainly will result in challenges to maintain quality,' says John Marshall, an independent aviation-safety consultant who spent 26 years in the Air Force before overseeing Delta's safety. 'Regional carriers will be creative and have to take shortcuts' to fill their cockpits."
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Airlines Face Acute Pilot Shortage

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  • by AuMatar (183847) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:20AM (#41977413)

    It didn't seem like we were having any real problems due to inexperienced pilots before. If this is really a problem, let's just roll this back.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The gov has been having knee jerk reactions to all manner of issues. I just wish they would review their own issues in the same manner.

      • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:15AM (#41978181) Journal

        ... who knows?

        Maybe the gubment hikes the basic requirement to force the airline to think of the unthinkable - to employ robots as pilots

        Hey, Hong Hai (Foxconn) is doing it in China, Canon is doing it in Japan, what is stopping USA from joining in the fun?

    • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:31AM (#41977487)

      Disclaimer: I am a private pilot, but know several commercial pilots.

      Congress decided that regional airlines (who pay pilots $18-22K/year to fly) needed pilots with more experience instead of the previous 800 hours they were required to have, due to accidents such as Colgan Air 3407. Others have argued that pilot fatigue (regional pilots schedules are pretty grueling, and you're only paid cabin door close to cabin door open), as well as pressure from the airlines themselves to meet business metrics are the issues.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colgan_Air_Flight_3407 [wikipedia.org]

      • by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:48AM (#41977559)
        Well, if airlines are in such dire need, they should raise the pay.
        Also, skimming through the article I was looking for when this law was passed (2010) and goes into effect July 2013.
        Three years to deal with the issue, they had plenty of time.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:58AM (#41977607)

          I remember when pilots would make reasonable salaries (think six digits). Less than $30k for someone with that many hours? That is just wrong, and no wonder why there is a pilot shortage, because for that much training, someone can be a lawyer, IT guy, or some other profession and have a chance at making enough to pay the vills.

          I'm sorry, but I have zero sympathy for airlines and how they treat customers like trash, as well as their employees.

          If they have a pilot shortage, they need to do like every other business: Whine about it to Congress and hire the H-1Bs. Oh, the H-1Bs don't have the training? Well, go and train them.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @03:52AM (#41978101)

            Only the most senior pilots made six digits. The problem is the ranking system. Pilots are paid by seniority and you cannot take it with you if you switch airlines, including in a merger or move to a regional branded by a major. You can have instances where a pilot with 20 years experience switches airlines and starts at the bottom all over again, making $20K. This system was instituted by the union and still has wide spread support by the pilots.

            • by gutnor (872759) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:22AM (#41978781)

              I'm not familiar with the Airline unions, but I have experience with other unions in other sectors. Pay based on seniority is often indeed required by the union. However, the fact that experience does not carry over, is not required by the union, it is the price they had to pay. Seniority can be carried over during contract negotiation.

              When you change job, there is negociation for the salary either directly or using seniority as a proxy. You get experienced pilot working for 20K for the same reason you get PHD flipping burger at McDonald, nothing to do with the union stance on seniority.

              • I'm not familiar with the Airline unions, but I have experience with other unions in other sectors. Pay based on seniority is often indeed required by the union. However, the fact that experience does not carry over, is not required by the union, it is the price they had to pay. Seniority can be carried over during contract negotiation.

                I am sure this is the case - how would it ever be in the employee/union's interest to include language to prevent pilots from "jumping ship" for more pay (the way IT folks do?) No, this was something put in the contract by the employer. Once done, they may well blame the union for it "we'd like to pay you more, but the union won't let us." - but if one checks with the negotiating team I'm sure you'd hear how management's negotiator pushed that language. Remember, since it is a negotiation you don't get

          • by lurker1997 (2005954) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:07AM (#41978721)

            I'm sorry, but I have zero sympathy for airlines and how they treat customers like trash, as well as their employees.

            This is easy to say, but not many people are going to pay 5X the price or more to fly with an airline that pays their employees extra and is nice to their customers. Unfortunately, consumers are getting what they want from the air travel industry, a race to the bottom.

            • by LordNimon (85072) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @08:28AM (#41979037)

              Why would it cost 5X extra? Doubling the salary of pilot should only make it at most 10% extra. Most people wouldn't even notice.

              • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @11:56AM (#41980561) Journal

                how would it even be 10%???? If a pilot flies 2x4 hour flights 5 days a week with a plane that carries 250 people average that comes close to 125000 people a year. $1 increase in ticket price could more than double or triple their current pay.

            • by jimbolauski (882977) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:38AM (#41979493) Journal
              At 5x the price you can fly private, first class is less then 2x the cost. To make the math easy will do an 8 hour flight on a Boeing 747, 4,500 miles that will burn 22,000 gallons of fuel. The price of fuel is somewhere between $3-$5 per gallon depending on the location so just the fuel cost is $110,000. A pilot making 20k a year would get paid roughly $10 / hour a 300% wrap rate would cost $240 for the trip with two pilots it's $480, for a total cost of $110,480 for the pilots and fuel. If the pilots made 100k a year the cost of pilots and fuel would be $112,400 a two percent change in cost, I did not account for maintenance, stewardess, baggage handlers, terminal fees or and other administrative cost. Fuel is by far the number one cost in the airline business labor is a distant second.
              • by GreenTom (1352587) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @12:04PM (#41980655)
                Strengthening your point, I think labor is a distant third. The #2 cost is the airplane itself. A new 747 costs $352 million. A major airline should be able to borrow money at 5-6%, so the mortgage on the plane will cost about $20 million/year. The aircraft is probably good for 30 years, so that's about $12 million/year in depreciation. It's costing the airline something like $32 million a year just to own the airplane.

                They should get around 3000 flight hours out of it per year (10-12 hrs/day x 6 days/week x 48 weeks/year), so add $10k or so per flight hour to your estimates. This also makes it obvious why fast turnaround is so important--Southwest pretty much revolutionized the industry by being able to flip a plane in 15-30 minutes. That extra hour of flight time each day is huge when you're looking at tens of thousands of dollars in fixed costs.

                Next time you board an aircraft, take a look to the left. If the cockpit door is open, there's probably a small plaque there telling you who the bank is that actually owns the plane.
          • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @10:42AM (#41980031) Journal

            Yep I might be a pilot right now if not for the bullshit low pay.

            The airline industry is now in a similar position to the IT industry: They say they can't find people, but what they mean is that they can't find highly educated people who are willing to work for peanuts - and therefore they deserve zero sympathy. Fuck 'em.

        • by brad3378 (155304)

          I predict that they will switch to autonomous drone technology before they ever raise pilot pay.

          • by Cinder6 (894572)

            Haven't they practically done that already? I remember a Mythbusters episode where an air traffic controller was able to successfully talk the (untrained) team through an emergency landing in a simulated 747. Now, obviously there are a lot of variables with flying a commercial jet, but with so much of the work becoming more and more automated these days, it seems like the trend would go toward lower minimum hours, not more. Granted, you might then run into serious problems should the automated systems ev

            • Oh god (Score:5, Interesting)

              by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @03:07AM (#41977941) Journal

              Yeah, myth busters in a sim, where the "pilot" was not tired after a long shift and had to land the aircraft already put in line with the runway, was perfectly functional, with a perfect radio connection, with no real life pressure, could land it in perfect weather conditions.

              Well, here is a fucking hint, I did that WITHOUT someone talking me through it. It is fucking easy! That they even managed to crash shows how stupid these guys really are. Anyone can try it themselves, you can play with high quality sims as "games" on the PC all you want and most come with scenario's that do put you in line with the runway and all you got to do is land. As long as you don't start freaking out and jerking the controller around, you will be able to land the plane pretty easily.

              The problem in real life is that when shit happens, it happens in spade. Bad weather, confusing communication, failing instruments, high pressure, lack of sleep. THAT causes accidents, not having to land fresh on a sunny day with no wind on an wide open runway.

            • by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:26AM (#41978787) Homepage

              Haven't they practically done that already? I remember a Mythbusters episode where an air traffic controller was able to successfully talk the (untrained) team through an emergency landing in a simulated 747.

              ...and at the end of the episode they said that an airline would NEVER do that, they'd just hit the 'autoland' button.

              Did you know that an awful lot of landings are automatic anyway? The pilot just sits there and watches. All airliners have a legal requirement to land automatically at least once a month or they lose their certification. They often do more than that, especially at foggy airports or when visibility is poor.

              These days the pilot is mainly there for when things go wrong, not for when things are going right.

      • Reading TFA, I see it says that 1500 hours is *six* times the previously required minimum, which would be 250 hours. You say the previous minimum was 800 hours. Would you please clarify? Did the WSJ reporters get it wrong? Thanks.

        • by cwebster (100824) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @02:21AM (#41977743)

          250 hours is the minimum for a commercial rating, the theoretical minimum for a job as a first officer at an airline. The practical minimum is dictated by the supply and demand in the job market and I have seen it vary between 1500 and 250 hours over the last decade and across different airlines. The 1500 hour minimum is a good thing. There are still jobs out there for the 250 hour people (part 135 freight) and this gives experience that they need to get on their way to an airline cockpit.

          Disclaimer: I flew for a regional airline for 4 years, benefited from the 250 hr baseline (I had 600 hours when hired, 3100 when I left) and I completely support getting more experienced people into those airplanes.

          • by michelcolman (1208008) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:41AM (#41978431)

            More experienced pilots, like... those who towed banners for 1500 hours, or those that gave instruction on little Cessna 152s flying around aeroclub fields?

            Those skills are completely irrelevant in a modern cockpit. In fact, remember the crash of AA587? The copilot used full rudder to get out of what he thought was the onset of a spin. The correct reaction in a small propeller airplane, but completely inappropriate in a large swept wing jet. I bet he had lots of experience flying small planes.

            Anyone can "fly" an airplane with very little training, a few hundred hours is plenty. Then comes the hard part: learning how to handle a large aircraft, with all its complex systems, autopilots, flight management systems, etcetera in a busy airspace in bad weather conditions. You learn those things in the simulator and on the job as a first officer, not by flying in an aeroclub.

            As for freight: those jobs will be filled up pretty quickly if nobody can start in the regionals anymore, and who wants to be a pilot if it means doing night flights for minimum wage for several years first? Also, those companies don't exactly have the highest safety standards so you're giving them bad habits from the get-go.

          • by Andy Dodd (701) <[atd7] [at] [cornell.edu]> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @11:29AM (#41980401) Homepage

            One key thing - these minimums increases were in response to Colgain Air 3407, as mentioned previously.

            Captain had 3263 hours (only 110 on type though) - I'm fairly certain the new regs don't affect time-on-type... A minimum of 1500 on-type means you'll never have anyone.
            FO had 2200 hours, 770 on type

            Assuming the new regs are for total hours and not on-type, the new regs solve a problem that didn't exist in the first crash. Safety theatre, kind of like the post-9/11 security theater, where the first new regulations passed nationally were ones that were PROVEN TO HAVE FAILED AS A MEASURE by 9/11. (Most of the 9/11 flights were out of Newark, which had only allowed ticketed passengers at the gate for at least a few years at that point.)

      • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @03:30AM (#41978031) Homepage Journal
        Well, they better start paying pilots a lot more money then. I don't see what the problem is. If they have to start charging more for tickets to cover the overhead, then they have to charge more for tickets. It is not like it is a cost that will affect one airline but not another.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hattig (47930)

        Seems to me that the issue is low pay and poor working conditions.

        You would really have to love flying to get into it as a job with the rewards you've outlined above.

        Maybe if they had raised the pay to be commensurate with the responsibility of the role, the unsociable hours and so on, and paid them when they turned up at the airport rather than when they entered the cabin door, there would be more people becoming pilots.

      • by whizbang77045 (1342005) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @11:04AM (#41980233)
        I am also a pilot, and a certificated mechanic.

        I believe the statements made in the Slashdot squib are misleading. Perhaps not intentionally so, but misleading.

        The airline pilots they are talking about are those for short haul (regional) carriers, not the more traditional airliners, like the Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Smaller airliners are not flying aircraft which require the pilot to have an Airline Transport certificate (ATP), because they don't carry as many passengers.

        The ATP required by what most of us think of as airliners requires 1500 hours before the candidate can taken the written test. Thus, pilots in traditional airliners already are required to have at least 1500 hours. This, good or bad, is just bringing the requirement for regional carrier aircraft in line with the requirement for other airliners.

        For a discussion of the requirements of the ATP, please see this link:

        http://fsims.faa.gov/WDocs/8400.10%20Air%20Transp%20Ops%20Insp%20Handbk/Volume%205.%20AIRMEN%20CERTIICATION%20AND%20DESIGNATED%20EXAMINERS/Vol%205-Chap%202-Sec%201.htm

    • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:38AM (#41977517)
      Its interesting to note that the crash that seems to have spured Congress into action was Colgan Air 3407 [wikipedia.org]. It appears that both pilot and co-pilot had experience far over the newly mandated limits, ruling the 250 hour requirement out as a reason. There are some questions about crew competence. So its more than a matter of sheer hours of flight time. It also requires training and pilot scheduling. Both of these will cost the carrier money. I can imagine the special interest wrangling that went on behind the scenes as this legislation was being crafted. It doesn't surprise me that the end result skirts around all the issues in which various parties have vested interests.
      • by antifoidulus (807088) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @04:17AM (#41978187) Homepage Journal
        Yup, the captain apparently failed multiple exams... In addition while having something like 3000+ flight hours, he only had 110 in the plane he was in and seems to have had very little experience in icing conditions(he was based out of Florida). The co-pilot apparently NEVER had experience in icy conditions according to the CVR: [mahalo.com]

        Shaw responded, "I've never seen icing conditions. I've never de-iced. I've never seen any. I've never experienced any of that. I don't want to have to experience that and make those kinds of calls . . . You know I'd have freaked out. I'd have like seen this much ice and thought, oh my gosh, we were going to crash."
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      It didn't seem like we were having any real problems due to inexperienced pilots before. If this is really a problem, let's just roll this back.

      This was in response to a Colgan Air crash in 2009 [atwonline.com] which found pilot inexperience to be a major cause of the accident. In 2010, the Air Safety Act was updated to include a 1500 hour minimum in order to get the Airline Transport Pilot's License (ATP License - required to carry I think 25+ or 50+ passengers. Lesser amounts you can get by with a commercial pilot's lice

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:55AM (#41977589)

      Let me start off by saying that I am a commercial pilot and a flight instructor. I know what I'm talking about.

      There are some real problems due to inexperienced pilots.
      Look up the Colgan Air crash from 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colgan_Air_Flight_3407
      Undertraining is also a significant issue.
      Look up the Air France crash, also from 2009. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_447

      People are afraid of getting into airplanes because they perceive that they lack any control of the situation and they subconsciously think that the pilots are as poorly equipped to deal with flying as the passengers themselves are. In order to maintain the perception of safe flight the FAA has made rules that only allow for extremely safe flights for the paying population. Commercial aviation is amazingly safe. The FAA is going to do whatever they can to ensure that it remains safe, even when it results in higher prices for tickets. Higher minimum flight time is one of these requirements and they are hoping that this will result in safer flight.
      I might not like every rule the FAA makes but they are doing their best to keep the flying public safe and they have done a admirable job of that so far.

      Let's talk prices. Let's say that your average pilot makes $100,000 a year. They don't, but it's an easy number to work with. Check this out for additional detail: http://blogs.wsj.com/middleseat/2009/06/16/pilot-pay-want-to-know-how-much-your-captain-earns/
      Let's say that after these changes the average pay bumps up to $200,000 a year. What will that cost you for your ticket?
      Let's pick some numbers out of the air:
      100 passengers for each plane on average.
      200 flights a year per pilot.
      2 pilots per flight.
      That works out to a total pilot cost per ticket of $20 and a cost increase per ticket of $10. How much do you suppose your taxi driver made getting you to the airport? I bet it was more than $10.

      Let's address the pilot shortage issue. It's a total load of garbage. There are hundreds of resumes for every pilot job out there, and for pitiful salaries. The pilots are out there but they can't afford to feed themselves let alone have a family and support them on a starting pilot's pay. Pilot training up to the level required for even the most basic job (instructor) is going to cost $50,000 or more. You can't pay that back on a $20,000 a year salary. Pilots do it because they love flying. As the new rules go into place, salaries will go up to compensate. But it won't be that much. Maybe you'll see a 'pilot pay' line on your next ticket for $20 or $40. And next time you are scared and drunk because you are clueless and getting ready to take off you can rest easy. The FAA in it's bumbling heavyhanded manner is doing it's best to keep you safe and they have been amazingly successful. More successful than any other industry in the world.

      • Interesting, thank you. Wish I had mod points for you. I have no problem with the concept of paying a decent living wage to the skilled professionals to whom I entrust my life when the cabin door closes. I hope those who are hiring those professionals feel likewise.

        • You may have no problem, but apparently the ownership would like that money for themselves and fuck the pilots AND the passengers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "That works out to a total pilot cost per ticket of $20 and a cost increase per ticket of $10."

        30 bucks total is what I paid for my ticket the last 6 times for a flight from Germany to Barcelona or Malaga.

      • by CRC'99 (96526) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:54AM (#41978469) Homepage

        Pilot training up to the level required for even the most basic job (instructor) is going to cost $50,000 or more. You can't pay that back on a $20,000 a year salary. Pilots do it because they love flying.

        Disclaimer: I am a private pilot doing my commercial flight test in ~14 hours time.

        This situation is completely correct. I've lived on sweet fuck all incoming for 5 years (think less than $25000AUD). My training here in Australia has totalled to around $110,000AUD - not including interest on loans etc. After my test, I'll have ~250 hours total flight time. If I manage to get a job straight after my test, in reality, I can probably earn $35-40k AUD. How do most pilots in my situation survive? They get a second job. Not only does this add to fatigue, it certainly doesn't make things safer.

        Why do I do it? Because its friggin awesome. If you want to fly to make a buck, then you live in another world.

        In a nutshell, the aviation industry is fucked. Everyone wants to cut their costs as far as possible without violating the law. This means cheap labour in maintenance, cheaper pilots, crappy pay and benefits.

        I really miss the wages I was paid in network administration, they were double what I'll get here....

  • what about adding a apprenticeship system into prior flight experience??

  • Air travel prices go up, demand goes down until they match. The riff-raff will have to travel Greyhound.

    • by lucm (889690)

      Air travel prices go up, demand goes down until they match. The riff-raff will have to travel Greyhound.

      This plan is already in motion, that's why the TSA has started to search "the bus people".

    • by c0lo (1497653)
      Even simpler: deep freeze and tightly packed container transport.

      (grin)

  • by jeff4747 (256583) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:25AM (#41977451)

    This raises the cost and time to train new fliers in an era when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already have made the profession less attractive.

    Golly....if only there was something the airlines could do to make being a pilot more attractive.

    • by lucm (889690)

      This raises the cost and time to train new fliers in an era when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already have made the profession less attractive.

      Golly....if only there was something the airlines could do to make being a pilot more attractive.

      Creative suggestion: give them a share of the iPads stolen from honest people by TSA agents (aka: the terrorist tax).

  • Well, this is certainly an up in the industry. Just 3 years ago, most pilots were complaining that the economy as well as the reluctance of travelers to deal with the security measures were driving travel to an all time low. I guess if we were serious, we could drop the mandatory retirement age temporarily (and replace it with a more comprehensive physical and mental exam which allows able pilots to continue flying) until more pilots become trained.
    Or we could have different categories of pilots, full co
  • by Tony Isaac (1301187) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:28AM (#41977467) Homepage

    This raises the cost and time to train new fliers in an era when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already have made the profession less attractive.

    Well, duh! Cut pay, make schedules more demanding, and whine about a pilot shortage!

  • by myowntrueself (607117) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:31AM (#41977481)

    "with the airlines sandwiched between rising costs for fuel and unsteady demand from price-sensitive consumers"

    I think consumers are sensitive to more than just price. The humiliating experience that flying has become in the USA could contribute.

    • by stox (131684)

      I have to admit, flying has become very cheap compared to what it used to. Even in unadjusted dollars, flying between Chicago and New York is cheaper than it was 50 years ago. Adjusting for inflation, that route is less than 20% of what it once cost. I really can't blame the airlines, they're giving us what we wanted most.

      • by sjames (1099)

        Well, yeah, if the deal includes being groped and generally treated like a terror suspect, then crammed into a cattle car it HAS to be really cheap to be even remotely attractive.

    • I've taken Amtrak or my car for every trip since they began treating passengers like jail inmates.

  • by Tony Isaac (1301187) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:40AM (#41977531) Homepage

    with the airlines sandwiched between rising costs for fuel and unsteady demand from price-sensitive consumers

    Really? Actually, jet fuel prices have leveled off [indexmundi.com] in the last six months.

    Not all the airlines are doing badly. Southwest--a low-fare carrier--is doing just fine [wsj.com]. Maybe there are other problems at the "traditional" airlines.

  • > [..] John Marshall, an independent aviation-safety consultant who spent 26 years in the Air Force before overseeing Delta's safety.

    If instead they had hired someone who spent 26 years in the Delta Force before overseeing Air safety maybe I would not have to step in bare socks on a mat covered with foot sweat while holding my pants at the security checks in airports since all terrorists would have been Chuck Norrised.

  • by Bitsy Boffin (110334) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:51AM (#41977573) Homepage

    The simple fact is that there are just not enough reasons that makes one want to be an airline pilot.

    Some of the downsides are:
        Expensive outlay in initial training through to Commercial Pilot Licence level.
        Huge time investment in hour building after that, flying usually as an instructor, hacking about with students doing their best to kill you, for nowhere near enough money to live on without a second job or two.
        Even more expense to get multi engine rating, turbine rating...
        Then you get to sit your ATPL.
        Then if you're lucky you might get offered a job as first officer (copilot)
        Then you have to do a rating on the aircraft you're going to be flying, which you'll have to pay for, and is generally stupendously expensive, or your employer pays for your rating but you are then indentured to the employer for years. All the time earning diddly-squat.
        Ascending to captains chair, or onto larger types, is usually seniority based, and if you want to move to a new employer, you go back to the bottom of the ladder.

    Most of the upsides are:
        You get to fly planes for a living.
        You get to wear a pilot hat and put bars on your sleeves.

    It's just not an attractive job any more. It's not even an "impressive" job any more, once upon a time, pilots were seen as near enough to gods, today, they are barely a step above your local bus driver.

    For some, getting to fly panes for a living is enough,they just love flying *that much*. But there are not enough of those people to meet the demand.

    • So...what has happened to the military pilots who have racked up thousands of hours each over the past 10 years. Have they all decided to go be elementary school teachers?

  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:52AM (#41977575) Homepage

    The shortage of doctors in the U.S. is due to the AMA cartel's control over university accreditation and corresponding rent-seeking state laws requiring accreditation. The result is speed-exams when you go visit a doctor (or maybe not see the doctor at all, but rather a "nurse practitioner").

    Similarly, with legislatively reduced supply of pilots, look for cattle class throughout, with even tighter row spacing. Better keep those 747's tuned up, airlines, because you're gonna need to convert them to full economy class the way Japan uses all-economy class 747's between Osaka and Tokyo.

    Don't worry, even though there won't be a business class to upgrade to with your frequent flyer miles, you'll still be able to spend your miles on magazine subscriptions.

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @02:17AM (#41977727) Journal

      Similarly, with legislatively reduced supply of pilots, look for cattle class throughout, with even tighter row spacing. Better keep those 747's tuned up, airlines, because you're gonna need to convert them to full economy class the way Japan uses all-economy class 747's between Osaka and Tokyo.

      Consumers are getting exactly the level of service they are willing to pay for.
      It's why airlines have had to soak the passengers in other ways, including baggage fees and overpriced onboard snacks/meals.

      Maybe we need to go back to the golden days of regulated airfares and routes.

  • This works for everyone, everywhere.

  • I for one am not surprised....

    Airlines Face Acute Pilot Shortage

    Most of the pilots I've seen are pretty fugly.

    Absolutely a great face for radio!

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @02:48AM (#41977871) Homepage

    There's a shortage of airline pilots because the job doesn't pay well any more and takes extensive training. Training most US airlines are not willing to pay for. The WSJ is whining that the FAA raised the standards for an Airline Transport Pilot rating and requires pilots to get more sleep. That's in response to the crash of Continental flight 3407 on February 12, 2009. [wikipedia.org] The WSJ conveniently does not mention that.

    Some airlines do pay for training. Here's the British Airways training program. [bafuturepilot.com] BA pays pilot trainees as employees through the whole training process. Most US airlines expect pilots to work for years for less than a typical city bus driver makes to build up their hours before they fly the big iron.

    A First Officer (copilot) on RyanAir starts at $3700 a month. [willflyforfood.com]

    • A First Officer (copilot) on RyanAir starts at $3700 a month.

      But that's before uniform charge, uniform cleaning charge, meal costs (or food waste disposal charge if you don't eat), seatage fees, seat cleaning fees, administration fees, administration fee administration fees, HR overhead contribution, payroll processing charge ...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @02:49AM (#41977873)

    I am an ATP Pilot turned computer programmer. There is no shortage of pilots, just a shortage of pilots willing to work for 18k a year and be treated like crap. I went into the airlines after 4 years of college for a bachelor in Aeronautical Science, several years of flight training and being an instructor and over 100k in debt. What I found out was that the old theory of working for a commuter to build your time was gone. The major airlines outsource over 65 percent of the flying to the commuters who are now flying tons of the majors old routes. So what you have to look forward to someday is maybe making it to a major after surviving several furloughs and years of 18k in pay. Oh yeah the furloughs? They are because the majors move the flying around to whoever is cheaper, and if a commuter starts to get too powerful, they shut them down and open them back up under a different name after filing bankruptcy and selling the assets off to their new company. Over the years it has gone from needing to be super experienced and professional to guaranteeing people jobs if they pay the airlines 70k. Yes that's right people now pay them for guaranteed jobs. Oh and the crash rate? There was years without a pilot error crash, then the airlines started lowering their minimums, and requirements from college degree to heartbeat, and they plowed 3 or 4 into the ground within a few years. The whole thing is really complicated, and the airlines like it that way. On top of all this they put out propaganda that the avg pilot makes $120k a year. Guess what the average pilot now makes $22k a year, has to pay for a dump crashpad, parking, their own uniforms etc... All this for a job that you are never home and on avg is letting you get home to your family maybe 10 days a month after the bitch of commuting. Oh and on top of it, the government bails the bad airlines out every time they go into bankruptcy. United and US Air were out of business in 2005 ish time. Guess what the government came in, wouldn't let the creditors re po their airplanes, and bailed them out. So the next time you say you "won't fly this airline", don't bother. Because your tax payer money allows them to run the crappiest operation they can. Politics gets involved and they say "we have to keep the airline" x amount of people will lose their jobs. Guess what, all the airlines that were doing a good job have planes and pilots ready to go on furlough, and can help the "FREE MARKET" prosper. The problem is it's not free, especially when cities and states fund their pensions on US Airways stock, and the shit starts hitting the fan. Sincerely, a bitter ATP pilot that isn't going back to that crap hole job for less than 200k!

    • by vlm (69642)

      I am an ATP Pilot turned computer programmer. There is no shortage of pilots, just a shortage of pilots willing to work for 18k a year and be treated like crap.

      So its the same working experience, except you don't get to fly. Also, H1B for computing, but not piloting... yet. These kind of articles are the drumbeat... I bet money that within 10 years domestic airlines will have exclusively non-american pilots, just like very few american cruise lines have american captains or american registered boats.

  • low pay (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @03:20AM (#41977993)
    They didn't offer sufficient pay and now they don't have enough pilots. Seems pretty simple to me.
  • by mha (1305) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @03:42AM (#41978055) Homepage

    http://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/airline-and-commercial-pilots.htm#tab-5 [bls.gov]

    Just to bring some numbers into the discussion.

    Personally, I'm a private pilot, I would NEVER make this my profession - so much more money to make in IT, and working hours as a pilot are pretty bad mostly.
    Don't forget that entry level pay is much less than those stats show - that's the MEDIAN (not even average).

    "The median annual wage of commercial pilots was $67,500 in May 2010. Among commercial pilots, the lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,860 and the top 10 percent earned more than $119,650."

    For such an important job this pay is RIDICULOUSLY LOW.

  • by Barryke (772876) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @03:52AM (#41978099) Homepage

    How odd, in the Netherlands we have a surplus of trained pilots. It was big news here of few weeks ago, with many freshly graduated pilots even willing to fly for known unsafe Africa/Asia based airlines just to get a job!

    Some news articles (dutch) i grabbed just now via Google:
    - http://www.nrc.nl/carriere/2012/10/16/zorgen-over-opleiding-en-banenmarkt-verkeersvliegers/ [www.nrc.nl]
    - (dated) http://blog.spitsnet.nl/2010/06/28/jonge-piloot-zit-zonder-baan/ [spitsnet.nl]

  • Funny math (Score:3, Insightful)

    by michelcolman (1208008) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @05:01AM (#41978305)

    They need 60000 pilots by 2025 (i.e. in the next 13 years), and only 36000 have passed the ATPL exam in the past eight years...

    60000 divided by 13, times 8, makes... 36923

    Slightly less dramatic than you thought, no?

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@aol.cTWAINom minus author> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @07:45AM (#41978849) Journal

    Here's a step by step approach to becoming a commercial airline pilot:

    1) Spend $15-20K on getting your private pilots license
    2) Spend another $10K on your instrument, high performance, and complex ratings
    3) Fly 250 hours at a cost of about $100/hr to build time and experience
    4) Spend another $5-10K on a commercial rating
    5) Become a flight instructor, getting paid about $10-15/hr to put your life in the hands of a student pilot - fly about 500 hours as a flight instructor
    6) Spend another $5-10K on a CFII rating, so you can instruct instrument, getting a ~$2/hr raise
    7) Fly another 500 hours at $12-17/hr teaching instrument
    8) Spend $5-10K on Multi Engine Instrument and MEI-Instructor ratings
    9) Fly 200 hours Multi
    10) Apply for a first officer position at a Charter or Regional making $10-12/hr, but with benefits, if awarded job, spend $5-10K of your own money on the rating for whatever aircraft you'll be flying, and your ATP rating
    11) Fly 1000-2000 hours as a first officer, and then apply for a captain position making $15-20/hr with benefits.
    12) Fly 1000-2000 hours as captain for a Charter or Regional, then apply for a First Officer position for a major airline, making $20K/year - the airline MIGHT pay for your rating on their B737 or whatever you'll be flying
    13) Do that for 25 years
    14) On a seniority basis, you'll be able to apply for a captain position when an existing captain quits, dies, or retires. Then you'll make $100K plus.

    So the short story is, you'll lay out $200K of your own money to get a job that pays $10/hr, and you'll make that for 25 years, and then maybe you'll get a left seat and make the big bucks, but chances are you won't, because you'll either get sick of working 100 hours/week for 40 hours of $10/hr pay and quit, or you'll fail your Class-1 Medical on Blood Pressure and lose your job.

  • by v1 (525388) on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:28AM (#41979397) Homepage Journal

    with the airlines sandwiched between rising costs for fuel and unsteady demand from price-sensitive consumers

    I'm stunned the article doesn't include the public's distaste for dealing with the TSA as a substantial contributing factor in lower patronage. I've always assumed it was at least a relevant number. I know I don't fly anymore unless unavoidable due to TSA. I've had friends lose computers at the airlines. I'm avoiding the airports, and keeping both my dignity and my property safe.

    Maybe the airlines need to do some serious lobbying to get rid of the TSA, if only to be looking out for themselves? I've heard they understand it's affecting sales, but I don't see them doing anything about it other than cowering and going along with it. Ad when their customers complain, they just blame all the inconvenience on the TSA. (who really doesn't give a damn) I can't believe they have no ability to influence change here.

    If they're really in as dire straights as they're saying, evicting the TSA from their terminals ought to be somewhere on their how-to-avoid-bankrupcy list.

  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @09:38AM (#41979495) Journal

    What you have to understand is this. When the airlines talk of a pilot shortage, what they are saying is "There are only 20 applicants for each job". Normally, there are 200 applicants for each job.

    The thing is most people who fly *really want to fly* and will practically prostitute themselves just to be in the air. This causes several bad things to happen. For instance, the majority of flight instructors aren't instructing because they want to, they are instructing merely to build hours to get that airline job. This means many private pilots are being trained by instructors with a few hundred hours, who aren't good teachers and have no interest in actual teaching. (This is why I found a grizzled old freelance instructor who did instruction as something on the side to his main job as an engineer, he was instructing because he cared about instructing, and also had thousands of hours of experience). That's not to say all young instructors with their eyes on the airlines are like this -- there are some who really do care, and continue to instruct after they get the coveted airline job. But at the same time, whenever I go for a checkout to rent a plane somewhere, it's not unusual that I have three times the hours than the instructor who is checking me out, and a much broader depth of experience. Aspiring airline pilots also take on some other pretty awful flying jobs such as flying canceled checks around in marginally airworthy aircraft in weather conditions they have no business flying in (single pilot IFR in a marginally airworthy light twin is pretty risky). I get the impression that half the aspiring commercial pilots would do these jobs for free, or even pay for the privilege.

    Because there's never really a shortage of pilots as most normal people understand it, even during times of "pilot shortage", the pilots of smaller airliners (think the small turboprop aircraft feeding into airline hubs) are paid peanuts. You can make more as a first level supervisor at Mc.Donald's than you can as an airline first officer in these outfits. It's not until you have quite a lot of seniority and are flying a jet do you actually get a liveable wage.

  • by cellocgw (617879) <cellocgwNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday November 14, 2012 @01:27PM (#41981711) Journal

    No, really: who says flying has to be cheap? If ticket costs skyrocket, what might happen? Here's a couple possibilities.
    1) Business use of video conferencing goes up.
    2) People learn to take vacations nearer to home.
    3) Buses and trains handle all the short-haul traffic (as it is right now, it's faster to go Boston-NY by Acela than by air when you factor in travel to /from airports and pre-board time).
    4) More sunny days due to reduced quantity of contrails.

    Ok, that last one is a stretch. But I see no reason to exempt airline corporations from the rules of Economics 101.

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