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Old 08-20-2007, 04:48 AM   #1  
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Default Washington Times - Pilot Shortage

Airlines brace for shortage of pilots

By Bryce Baschuk
August 20, 2007
Airlines are preparing for a major shortage of pilots and are trying to hire more of them to meet the demands of the next decade.

The airline industry is looking to hire 65,000 pilots by 2012 — including 12,000 this year — but is fighting a slew of retirements, a dearth of new recruits and competition from overseas carriers and the U.S. military.

Commercial air travel has grown 8 percent in the past five years, from 683 million passengers per year in 2001 to 740 million in 2006, and the Federal Aviation Administration expects that number to jump to 1.2 billion passengers by 2020.

The industry is concerned thatthere will be a void left when the current group of pilots is forced into mandatory retirement at age 60.

"I think that between 2010 and 2020 the pilot shortage is really going to be exacerbated with those retirements," said Daniel Elwell, assistant administrator for the FAA.

To buy the industry time, the FAA is working to change its retirement policy to allow one of two pilots in a crew to fly up to the age of 65.

"Studies [have shown that] the population is healthier, older and what were [safety] concerns a long time ago really aren't concerns today," FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told The Washington Times recently.

Researchers estimate that 3,800 pilots could be added to the national supply if the retirement age were raised to 65.

But the airline industry may have bigger concerns, as many of the United States' current pilots are being wooed by foreign airlines.

"There is a worldwide shortage looming," Mr. Elwell said. "We're already seeing it in other countries. Japan can't get pilots fast enough; [neither can] carriers in the Middle East, so they are hiring American pilots."

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, many of the 10,000 pilots who were furloughed opted to take early-retirement packages, changed professions or sought jobs with international carriers.

Jet Airways, an airline in Bombay, is one company that has been pursuing former U.S. pilots for their experience flying wide-body airplanes.

Kit Darby, owner of Aviation Information Resources Inc., an industry research firm in Atlanta, said some Indian companies are luring U.S. pilots by offering them a tax-free salary.

"So just as the domestic demand for experienced pilots is rising, foreign airlines are poaching our pilots," Mr. Darby said. "And they are doing a pretty good job."

"This is a global industry," said Steve Lott, a spokesman from the International Air Transportation Association, a trade association in Montreal. "And the neat thing about flying commercially is that you can take that skill anywhere in the world."

Illness and absenteeism among domestic pilots are further diminishing the amount of reserve pilots, with some companies having to cancel domestic flights.

Northwest Airlines Corp. canceled 8 percent of its flights over the July 28 weekend because of its struggle to put pilots in the cockpit.

The nation's fifth-largest airline by traffic has been plagued by pilot absenteeism and sick calls that have depleted its reserve work force during the end of the past two months.

Northwest pilots fly 90 hours per month, owing to company restrictions, so sometimes the number of reserve pilots runs short at the end of the month, said Capt. Monty Montgomery, a spokesman for the Northwest Airlines Pilots Association.

"We were insufficiently staffed with pilots to fly the regular schedule," he said. "Our pilots are already flying at a very high maximum, and we are reluctant to take on extra hours that keeps us away from our families."

As a result, Northwest has cut back some of its flights, reduced the amount of flight hours to 86 a month and focused on hiring more pilots.

The company said in its second-quarter earnings statement July 31 that it had recalled all furloughed pilots and will begin hiring new pilots to increase its reserves.

Northwest is not alone. According to Aviation Information Resources Inc., domestic airlines have hired 6,000 pilots in the first half of the year and are on pace to surpass the 8,000 pilots who were hired last year.

But that could become a challenge if the next generation of pilots is unable to take the controls.

A portion of today's domestic-pilot experience is deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and can't be hired by civilian carriers.

"What's happening with the American pilots is that the Air Force and Navy and Army pipeline is all but shut down because of the war," Mr. Elwell said.

Many prospective civilian pilots have been discouraged by the pay cuts and reduced benefit packages in the industry.

Although earnings for airline pilots are among the highest in the nation, salaries have declined in recent years.

The average annual salary for a first officer in his fifth year in 2004 was $95,000, but that fell to $87,000 in 2004 and eroded to $83,000 in 2007, according to Aviation Information Resources Inc.

To offset that, recruiters are offering steep bonuses to draw in new pilots, and some airlines are offering recruiting bonuses as high as $500 for company employees who find new pilots. (FIN)

Last edited by AFPirate; 08-20-2007 at 04:50 AM. Reason: spacing
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Old 08-20-2007, 05:25 AM   #2  
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5 lines about changing the retirement age from 60 to 65...only 3 lines talking about the drop in compensation...ZERO lines about the pitiful compensation at small jet carriers (especially as an FO) and ZERO lines about how quality of life has all but become a punchline to airline pilots.

But yeah, lets let the most senior pilots stay another 5 years - that's cheaper than fixing the real problem!!!
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Old 08-20-2007, 05:57 AM   #3  
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Lies. All lies.

How many apps are there at SWA, UAL, FL, DAL, NWA, FEDEX, Alaskan and UPS, many others? Fractionals aren't going anywhere.

None are reducing their requirements, none have improved working conditions to attract "recruits." ATA still has almost 300 on furlough. Most won't come back, and we don't have immediate plans to recall anyone.

The shortages are at the regionals/commuter/small jet. Very few want to work under those conditions. I don't blame them. Those that are there are always looking to improve their own prospects.

Raising the retirement age will only make things worse. Fewer at the smaller carriers will be leaving, but then again fewer will apply given the working conditions and the fact that the pilot will be stuck at that carrier for 5 more years. It will make things worse as pilots at the crappy carriers leave the industry for better pay.
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Old 08-20-2007, 06:12 AM   #4  
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I've heard between 10,000 and 11,500 at FDX.
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Old 08-20-2007, 06:20 AM   #5  
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Someone should write a letter to the editor or a rebuttal to this letter and point out all the negatives. Low pay time away from home job security age 65 ect.
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Old 08-20-2007, 06:42 AM   #6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HalinTexas View Post
Lies. All lies.
Very True-


Quote:
Originally Posted by HalinTexas View Post
The shortages are at the regionals/commuter/small jet. Very few want to work under those conditions. I don't blame them. Those that are there are always looking to improve their own prospects.

Raising the retirement age will only make things worse. Fewer at the smaller carriers will be leaving, but then again fewer will apply given the working conditions and the fact that the pilot will be stuck at that carrier for 5 more years. It will make things worse as pilots at the crappy carriers leave the industry for better pay.
I don't think there is a pilot shortage- companies that pay well and are taking care of their pilots are not having a difficult time finding pilots.
Training cost (directly related to fuel prices) are sky rocketing causing a shortage of pilots with over 1000 tt but as far as below those times, there are more pilots than jobs out there.
But hopefully pay will get better at the regional level so the pay can either maintain or increase at the major level.
If the job at the regional level get worse I will bet the majors will follow, some already have.
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Old 08-20-2007, 07:08 AM   #7  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AFPirate View Post

The average annual salary for a first officer in his fifth year in 2004 was $95,000, but that fell to $87,000 in 2004 and eroded to $83,000 in 2007, according to Aviation Information Resources Inc.

To offset that, recruiters are offering steep bonuses to draw in new pilots, and some airlines are offering recruiting bonuses as high as $500 for company employees who find new pilots. (FIN)
That's funny.. it seems like in the first paragraph, they must be talking about major airline FOs... no way the average for ALL FOs can be that high.. not with the thosands of us regional dudes earning only $20k. Then the second paragraph is obviously about regionals... but they don't mention that they are two different things (major/regional). Non-pilot readers would construe that as "average FO pay is 83k AND these FOs are being offered steep sign-on bonuses." Still makes us sound like spoiled brats complaining about nothing! and speaking of "steep bonuses"... $2500 is "steep?"
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Old 08-20-2007, 08:51 AM   #8  
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See DOL bureau of labor stats.

I've found that journalists often confuse "median" with "mean" or average.
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Old 08-20-2007, 08:52 AM   #9  
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"Airlines short on pilots!" ?

How about: "Airlines are cheap, so operate their airline on minimum pilot staffing to save money." Then airline cancels flights when a pilot gets sick or a cloud blows by the hub airport.
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Old 08-20-2007, 08:54 AM   #10  
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Default statistics 101

This article is rife with inaccuracy. To lump the wage statistics of regional FOs in with major FOs is highly misleading. He or she has confused the mean, median, and mode.

Example salary set-
[ $20k $20k $20k $20k $30k $40k $50k $60k $70k $80k $90k ]

The mean, or average is $45k.

The median, or midpoint of the samples is $55k.

But the mode, the most common salary is only $20k.

So, in cases where there is a nonstandardized distribution as with pilot salaries, you have a bimodal distribution (or trimodal). You cannot present an average without skewing it badly.

The article skews a bunch of things. To report there is a pilot shortage without qualifying it with the larger economic picture of supply, demand, wage, and cost is ridiculous. If the industry has artificially suppressed wages, then to claim there is a supply shortage is misleading.

Throw this article on the heap of sensationalist journalism. You would think the Washington Times could do better. Unfortunately, there is a lot of this kind of thing getting airplay lately.

Last edited by Cubdriver; 08-20-2007 at 11:27 AM.
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