U.S. officials voice concern at forum over future need for substantial number of new pilots

At a time when Boeing is predicting the need for 127,000 new commercial pilots n North America over the next 20 years, the acting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Dan Elwell is quoted as saying at a recent forum on the aviation workforce that: “We have a diminishing supply of qualified pilots, mechanics, and technicians.” Current figures show that over the last ten years, the number of U.S. private pilots with active certificates decreased by 27% and the number of commercial pilots fell by 21%. Boeing has also identified a need for a further 754,000 new aircraft over the next two decades.

According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, worldwide, air passengers are expected to nearly double from 4 billion in 2017 to 7.8 billion by 2036. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at the forum that beyond industry demand for pilots, the military also needs more pilots. She said the Air Force was 2,000 pilots short of staffing needs, including 1,300 fighter pilots, “We have to be in it together because if we continue to try to cannibalize off each other we will never solve the core problem, which is a national shortage of aviation professionals.”
American Airlines President Robert Isom said at the forum that 75% of its pilots will retire over the next 15 years, including 8,000 over the next decade.

There has been mention of speeding up pilots’ training through the inclusion of simulator training counting towards pilot hours, though this idea has not been welcomed by a number of safety advocates.

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