Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014 Hot Aviation Careers

A new era of aerospace is fueling aviation career opportunities

Flying Careers
If flying is in your blood, becoming a pilot is likely your goal. The media has been saturated of late with discussions about a looming pilot shortage, with each side of the argument presenting evidence to bolster their cause. Regardless of the outcome of these debates, the fact remains that air travel is growing around the world (and has never slowed, according to statistics), and there will always be a demand for pilots. Even with advances in technology, it's not likely that the average person will get on board an airliner flown only by computers—at least in the immediate future. Pilots will likely remain in demand at least for the next two decades.

The truth is that flying jobs abound. The "golden ring" of the aviation hierarchy is the job of airline captain for one of the major carriers, and that remains a lucrative career, with salaries still reaching comfortably into six figures. It's also true that regional airlines—something of a "farm team" for the majors—start first officers at $22,400 per year, according to the Airline Pilots Association International (ALPA). Many in the industry feel this is contributing to the current regional pilot shortage. Training costs are high for professional pilots, but there may be change in the air.

The industry is concerned enough that the U.S. Government has gotten involved. A study released in late February by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed that regional airlines are canceling routes and getting rid of aircraft due to a shortage of pilots. "Nearly all of the regional airlines that GAO interviewed reported difficulties finding sufficient numbers of qualified entry-level first officers," the report said. The report also found one reason behind the shortage is that many pilots have gone to overseas carriers to follow enticing salaries, bonuses and other perks unavailable domestically.
Experts feel that with such lucrative salaries and the explosion of UAVs, the demand for these pilots will far outstrip the supply.
As a result, the airline industry has upped their recruiting efforts and has considered offering pilots better incentives. The GAO report says that experts suggested the FAA could also take action by providing better financial aid or tweaking training requirements (like simulator hours). The FAA is currently reviewing the requirements to become a pilot.

Boeing's often-cited "Market Outlook Report" forecasts the need for 460,000 new pilots in the next 20 years. Even taking into account more conservative federal estimates, airlines will need to hire an average of 1,900 to 4,500 pilots a year to meet growing travel demand. Considering the trickle of pilots coming from university aviation programs and the scarcity of military pilots (many who are staying in the military to take advantage of the unheard of $250,000 retainer bonus), a career as a pilot looks very bright.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are probably the hottest topic in aviation today. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will be integrated into the national airspace system (NAS) in 2015, injecting an estimated $13.6 billion into the economy, and creating a growing job market. A report titled "The Economic Impact of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the United States" by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) says that more than 100,000 new jobs will be created in the 10 years following the introduction of UAS. These jobs will encompass new manufacturing, sales, maintenance, operation and support positions with an economic impact of $82 billion by 2025. The development of UAVs is changing how we perceive pilot careers.


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