Plane & Pilot
Thursday, July 1, 2004

Cockpit Career Update Part 3: The Future Of Pilot Careers


Last month, we covered the technological changes occurring in the industry today. In this final installment of our three-part series, we’ll discuss what you can expect in years to come.


No one has the luxury of peering into a crystal ball, especially when it comes to predicting the future of the aviation industry. Technological developments continue to change the face of aviation, and the result of this progress is anyone’s guess. There are, however, certain factors that help foretell what may happen to this ever evolving industry." />

According to Professor Beneigh, “They’re already using them in the Army. They’ll soon put cameras on UAVs and use them for traffic reports, pipeline control, power-line control and police activities. They’re just so inexpensive. FedEx has already approached the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] about the possibility of flying UAVs.”

Another factor that could affect the future of pilot careers is the possibility that the FAA will increase airline pilots’ mandatory retirement age of 60 years old. Ever since its promulgation in 1959, pilots, politicians and many organizations, such as the Professional Pilots Federation and Pilots Against Age Discrimination, have opposed the age-60 rule, arguing that there was no medical justification behind its origin and that the airline pilots’ stringent FAA medical exam, which occurs every six months, is sufficient enough to ensure passenger safety.

If the FAA does increase the mandatory retirement age, it won’t have a significant effect on pilot hiring. According to Darby, “When it does happen, it’s going to be an extra two or three years, and it’s going to be optional. There will also be additional medical monitoring, and some pilots won’t be able to do it. We’re probably looking at about 25%, which is about 500 pilots who will continue to work anywhere from one to three years. So it’s just going to be a short-term blip.”

Regardless of what happens in the future, there will always be a need for pilots. As aviation technology continues to advance, there will be greater diversity in pilot careers. Some will fly hundreds of passengers. Others, four or five. And a number of operators will fly airplanes remotely from the ground. But amidst all these changes, pilots will keep doing what they love doing—fly airplanes.

Part 1: Is Now The Time To Prepare For An Airline Job?

Part 2: Changes In Pilot Careers

Part 3: The Future Of Pilot Careers



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