Research Paper on Shortage of Airline Pilots in the United States

Published: 2023-01-16
Research Paper on Shortage of Airline Pilots in the United States
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Aviation
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1853 words
16 min read


A stable and healthy industry on airline operation is most relied on by the national security of the United States. This requires competence operators that can fit in the industry, and that can drive it to success. For this to work out well, there is a requirement of reliable modern airlines and also pilots who are skilled in their fields of work.

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The Problem

There is currently inadequate or rather a deficiency of pilots in America and more so in the field of airline levels. According to the researches done by the FAA that is Federal Aviation Administration, in the year 1987, America had around 827,000 pilots (Duggar,2011). Over several decades of about three, it is said this number to have decreased by 30%. This is a great margin and in which it is affecting the operation of the airline industry.

During this time, there has also been an incredible upsurge request of air travel in which most people consider it favorite to travel by airline means than any other means of transport and therefore to create congestions in the airstrips. According to the International Air Transport Association prediction, this will double in the next 20 years (Fullingim, 2011). This case of high demand and low supply in airline transport is causing a threat to the industry and in which if not looked and addressed to may worsen the operation of the industry in the coming decades (Higgins, 2013). A high decrease of pilots and a high increase in demand for those who require airline transport will affect both the customers and the industry. Reliable services will always attract customers and vice versa. For the airline industry to succeed in its operation, there should be the provision of enough pilots and also sufficient planes that can manage the services.


In the early 1970s, there was a high demand for pilots, and at that time, there was good paying to those who were taking the field. This is because this job was considered to be a prestigious carrier, and therefore, many enrolled in the training of pilots (Higgins, 2013). Not only the high salaries which this job offered but also there were flexible schedules of duties in which there was the provision of many days off, and also it was a respected post by the community and society. In these years the approximately salary pay to the pilots was about $300,000 in the current's dollar currency by some of global airline travel navigators. This was in the early 1990s.

This has changed greatly in today's society. It is never or rather no longer the situation. This carrier of airline pilots has mislaid its lather and lust (Duggar, 2011). This has been caused by several deregulations that have taken place. For instance, the Deregulation Act of the airways in the year 1978 disadvantaged some airline like the Pan-Am that came out of the trade due to the low-cost carrier that was kicked off by this deregulation (Duggar, 2011).

9/11 Attack

Also, the attacks of 9/11 left several airlines in a bad financial status. This attack affected so much the operation of the airline industry since there were no finances to gear the operation. As a result, several airlines were announced to be bankruptcy. Some of these airlines were the major known airline in America, which included Delta, US Airlines, American Airline, Northwest, and United Airline (Fullingim, 2011). After this attack, there was the poor performance of the airline transport and in which several flights would record less than five passengers in a flight.

This condition affected a lot of pilots, and many of them were forced to leave the positions of captains hence going back to the positions of the first officer. Due to this, there was a dropping of salaries to the affected pilots from approximately $190,000 per year to roughly $75,000 (Rice, 2014). There was also great discouragement to those who were even planning to specialize in airline pilot carrier, and the course lost market; thus, people were not interested in taking the carrier anymore.

Military Changes

On the other hand, the numbers of pilots who were provided by the army got affected. Much of this is as a result of the introduction of inflight vehicles which were unmanned. In the years of 80s, there was a great number of pilots which were ex-military, and this number ranged roughly about two thirds. In recent days the number has dropped and is now about one-third of the airline pilots who are ex-military (Fullingim, 2011). There is also a prediction by the navy in which it is said by 2020 there will be a shortage of pilots of about 10%. On the other side, their counterpart which is the Air force says there will be a shortage of about 1,000 pilots by 2022.

High Training Cost

There is a clear indication on how the United States is the day after the other realizing the decreased number of pilots as there is a high demand of their services in the airline industry (Higgins, 2013). This is to mean that those who are aspiring to be aviators have top deep deeper in the pockets and pay for their training in flights.

Such training is much costly and therefore not many who can afford to go for this training (Duggar, 2011). The estimated cost of the training is about $100,000 hence many who may be willing to take the courses are not certain about the future hence end up unwilling to take the risk (Robbert, 2015). In a simple explanation, there is no surety if anyone spends that much in training will be employed and that has discouraged a lot of young aspiring aviators from taking the training. The greatest cause of this is the recession which has greatly affected the move.

Changes by Congress

There was also a mandatory change of airline pilot's retirement age by the Congress in 2009 I which retirement age was reduced from 60 to 65 years of age. In my view, this did not in any way solve the problem but rather created a road map for future problems of the matter. In a research done by the Boeing in 2016, the report displays that 42% of the current aviators operating in the main international airline in America will attain their retreat age in the coming ten years (Fullingim, 2011). This is to mean that in the next ten years the 42% are going to be jobless and they will have nothing to sustain them and their families. As one cares for his current life also, the future is in his mind, and they have to look for a successful future (Higgins, 2013). The move has discouraged the young aspiring pilots, and they have decided to look for a more promising and stable carrier that may cater to their future living.

Has if this was not enough there came up some changes regarding the rest rules and airline pilot's work. In the year 2009, when the crash of Colgan near Buffalo occurred, the experience of the pilots required in the airline flights was changed by the Congress. This change was that any newly hired pilot must have an experience of not less than 1500 hours of flight (Robbert, 2015). The implementation of this law into the act, the pilots, could now have an airline flight of not less than 250 hours.

Demand for Skilled Pilots

The other problem is the growing demand. There is a great request for well proficient and skilled aviators, which is increasing day after the other (Rice, 2014). The Pacific and Asia regions are leading in this high demand. There is a great number of manufacturing airplanes by the Airbus and Boeing manufactures and are expected to manufacture more and more in the next 20 years (Duggar, 2011). This means that as there is high production of the airplanes, there is also a requirement of well trained and skilled pilots to operate the airplanes.

There was also a change of duty time rules in the aim of mitigating fatigue issues of the pilots by the Congress in 2010. This change indicated that the airline had to increase the number of their pilot stuff by five to eight percent for them to manage the same schedule. These become too difficult for some airline, and they were forced to reduce their schedules (Fullingim, 2011). By doing this, some of the airlines such as Republic have been forced to bankruptcy due to inadequate staffing hence affecting the operation (Higgins, 2013). There is no direct effect of pilot shortage by the major US Airlines, but there is a great effect on the smaller airlines, and they are experiencing the problem due to inadequate staffing. One of the examples is the republic, as mentioned above.


However, there is a light shown by the New Airport Robot Care-E by the KLM. There is higher pay and also huge signing bonus by the regions, and there are few steps by the industry which has been taken to handle the problem (Rice, 2014). The industry should come up with an amicable solution which will boost the move. People will always prefer where there are high salary payment and a great bonus.

Besides, there are some amendments which have been made to the changes by Congress about 1500 hours' rule. It is easy for the pilots since they can have their certificate in less than 1500 hours for the training done in certain training schools. There is also a great move by the industry to extend the retirement age to 67 years (Higgins, 2013). This will at least encourage those who had given up in the carrier fearing for the stability of the job.


In conclusion and my view, these steps which have been taken by the industry to solve the problem will not solve the challenges. There is more which is needed to be done by the Airlines. One of the steps the airlines should make is creating their training schools. This will be geared by coming up with an independent pipeline by the airline industry. The airlines should consider recruiting as well as training their own pilots' learners. This has been seen in some airlines such as American Airlines where it announced the American Airline Academy with an intention of recruiting and training their future pilots. This will ensure there are no inadequate pilots in their airlines and that the trainees have the hope of being employed in the same Airlines they trained in.


Duggar, J. W., Smith, B. J., & Harrison, J. (2011). International supply and demand for US-trained commercial airline pilots. Journal of Aviation Management and Education, 1, 1.

Fullingim, J. F. (2011). The Marketability of Higher Education Aviation Graduates as Perceived by Regional Airline Pilots. Collegiate Aviation Review, 29(1).

Higgins, J., Lovelace, K., Bjerke, E., Lounsberry, N., Lutte, R., Friedenzohn, D., ... & Craig, P. (2013). An investigation of the United States airline pilot labor supply. Grand Forks, ND, University of North Dakota, University of Nebraska Omaha, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Southern Illinois University, LeTourneau University, Middle Tennessee State University, 35.

Rice, S., Kraemer, K., Winter, S. R., Mehta, R., Dunbar, V., Rosser, T. G., & Moore, J. C. (2014). Passengers from India and the United States have differential opinions about autonomous auto-pilots for commercial flights. International Journal of Aviation, Aeronautics, and Aerospace, 1(1), 3. Retrieved from

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Research Paper on Shortage of Airline Pilots in the United States. (2023, Jan 16). Retrieved from

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