By Kudumomo

Over the Last Ten Years, many pilots have heard and hoped for an expected Pilot Shortage. What is this shortage and what are the non-biased Analytics of it. Too many this shortage has had more in common with desert mirage’s than with statisfing reality.

In the last ten years almost every major airline except for a very small few have filed for bankruptcy. Mergers have also touched an equal number of carriers in ways unforseen over the last twenty years. As a result multiple furloughs have occured and virtually no hiring has happened at these “Major” airlines. The 65 age rule has also delayed much of the expected retiring of the last 5 years. Some airlines are still adjusting to these processes.

The Regionals once the shining stars in the Airline industry as Majors shrunk capacity on routes by applying more “regional” sized aircraft now find themselves in the same position the majors did 10 years ago. That is essentially a shrinking market with to many players. As the majors adjustment to this economic fact is finally winding down, the Regional’s financial turmoil is just beginning to heat up. The reason for all this is a conversation for another day. However, knowing the general market condition will help set the stage for beneficial analysis of pilot demand over the next 20 years.

We can make a couple of assumptions from this brief history and condition.

  1. Regional Airlines will probably not see much growth in the next 20 years.
  2. After a Period of Consolidation and Restructuring the Majors are now beginning a period of fleet revitalization.
  3. The next Market Battles will not so much be between Domestic Mainline carriers but between International Carriers. (ie what keeps US Major Airline CEO’s awake at night isn’t each other so much, but airlines like Emirates and the like that are mobilizing massive levels of international capacity)

If the regional market will remain stagnant in overall capacity, we anticipate to see weaker carriers slowly collapse, allowing general regional capacity to slightly shrink, and stronger regional players to pick up the slack. This may allow some minor growth for strong Regional Players but overall capacity should remain constant or decrease slightly. Pilot Demand Amongst the Regionals will be closely tied to Attrition from Larger Airlines.

Fortunatly, because of this period of fleet Revitilization and the need to make aircraft with Boeing and Airbus years in advance, we can reasonably guess what their fleet size will be each year over the next 8-10 years. Their order schedule and planned retirement is general public knowledge and can be gleaned from quarter and yearly reports.

This Data is compiled by Airline on the Airline Pilot Demand Page. You’ll find our fleet estimates per year up until 2020, after which we assume stagnant fleet growth. It is very possible the Majors may see additional growth after that, but to maintain in keeping a conservative model we will assume stagnant. History has shown that the increased Capacity predicted by FAA forecasts, are often met with larger guage or size aircraft, rather than with increased fleet numbers. Many factors encourage this approach, fuel cost per seat, restricted slot numbers in airports, and better flight crew productivity.

These pages also overlay HR requirements for pilots from fleet size with, current retirement schedules. Both of these factors, fleet size and current retirement projections give us a fairly reliable estimate of demand.


From the research a few interesting conclusions surfaced. The Airline Demand Comparison Page being the most helpful in illustrating these.

First, even through the peak of Major airline hiring in this next cycle we will likely see the amount of time a new First Officer remains as a First Officer at the regional stay at about 4-5 years. Our projections showed a Major airline requirement of 2,100 pilots a year. Roughly, 10% of the current Regional Capacity, which we think will remain stagnant. At 10% attrition a year, a new hire can expect to reach 50% seniority after 5 years. We assumed 50% seniority was a fair estimate for upgrade to Captain.

Second, the two airlines(United, American) that expect the most hiring demand will be tempered by furlough recalls for the first couple of years and wont see significant hiring until 2014.

Third, their is a close relationship between risk and reward, if reward is quick Seniority progression. For example the US Airways model shows a new hire today reaching Captain upgrade in 8 Years, the fastest of any the airlines. However, US Airways is also the most poorly paid, and unstable of all the airlines in the Model. Conversly, in the Model, Delta takes the longest to start significant hiring, but has the best pay, and is the most stable business out of the selection.

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