The NBAA Want Congress To Help The Pilot and Technician Shortage


It is not a secret that the aviation industry is projected to experience significant global shortages in key positions in the coming decades. Given the ever-growing demand in passenger and freight aviation plus the pending retirement of a high percentage of current pilots and technicians, shortages are already beginning to appear.

Corporate and business aviation is also experiencing shortages in critical operational areas and is looking for help from Congress to alleviate the situation.

What are the NBAA and Congress Doing to Address the Shortages?

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) recently submitted written testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee for Aviation. Generated to secure Congressional help in attracting the next generation of skilled aviation workers, this document pointed out that Boeing has projected that between 2018 and 2038:

  • 645,000 commercial pilots will be required
  • Business aviation will demand 100,000 new pilots
  • 770,000 certified aviation technicians need to be recruited and trained for all areas of aviation

The pilot shortage is becoming quite severe since the average age of pilots is currently at fifty-one, and their mandatory retirement age is sixty-five. These statistics suggest that in only a bit over a decade, half of the current pilot population will no longer be flying, and solutions to recruit and train replacements must be identified.

While the military was once considered the principal developer of new pilots, this is no longer the case. The United States Air Force is also experiencing pilot shortages. According to a U.S. News and World Report article in August 2018, the Air Force is currently experiencing a shortage of about 2,000 trained pilots for active and reserve service combined.

The problem is widespread as aviation continues to increase in less developed countries. The shortage becomes more intense without proactive programs to encourage more young people, including a higher percentage of female candidates, to become pilots, aviation engineers, and certified mechanics.

With support and guidance from NBAA, two Congressional initiatives have laid the groundwork for encouraging and supporting more candidates to enter the field of aviation.

These initiatives are:

  • Promoting Service in Transportation Act

Three members of the House Subcommittee for Aviation introduced H.R. 5118 that authorizes the Department of Transportation to develop public service announcements to encourage and promote career opportunities and diversity in the field of transportation and aviation.

  • FAA Reauthorization Act

This legislation sets aside funding and support for workforce development programs that encourage and subsidize the education of future pilots, engineers, and trained technicians with special grant programs.

On December 16, 2019, the House and Senate authorized $5 million each year for 2020 to 2024 expressly for the recruitment and education for aviation maintenance technical workers, as well as a parallel program at the same amount to encourage and train new pilots.

Encouraging Future Maintenance Technicians

The technical grant program supports:

  • Education programs to teach aviation maintenance,
  • Scholarships and apprenticeships in aircraft maintenance
  • Outreach programs to primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools and universities to encourage aviation careers
  • Target economically disadvantaged communities
  • Support the smoother transition of mechanics from military to civilian aviation
  • Enhance mechanical technician programs to make them more appealing to potential candidates

Through the efforts of NBAA and Congress, as well as a full recognition of the shortages by business and commercial aviation the industry, many initiatives are coming into place to encourage and recruit candidates for this most important industry.

Without aggressive support and innovative programs to encourage new candidates, aviation shortages can severely curtail economic growth worldwide and have a negative long-term impact on business and commercial aviation. More initiatives will be needed.

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