All the big headlines about pilot shortages focus on airlines. For example, a new report from consultancy firm Oliver Wyman warns that the post-COVID recovery in pilot demand could be felt as early as later this year and ramp up to crisis level by 2023. So why should you care, if you’re not 22 and eyeing gold-striped epaulets and a fat paycheck? Well, there’s a ripple effect to a pilot shortage that can be a boon for all GA pilots.
First, a rising tide in training ops will lift all boats. While many career-minded students attend aviation colleges or training academies, there’s plenty of spillover to the smaller, airport-centric flight schools. The more flying there is going on, the more prosperous it is not just for those flight schools, but for all service providers. That includes airports, FBOs, fuel vendors, maintenance shops, avionics sales, pilot supplies (including epaulets), aviation finance companies—just about any business that gets its bread buttered by light airplane flying. It also attracts new start-ups to ride the wave, increasing competition. Besides simply making those services more widely available, economics dictates that as overall cashflow volume grows, businesses can afford to shave margins and lower prices to attract even more customers to their fold.
Also, leaseback opportunities are much more likely when flight schools are busy churning out fresh-faced certificate holders. Potential aircraft buyers—factory-new and used—have more and better options for offsetting much of the cost of ownership for an aircraft that can be used part-time as a trainer. And a trusted, experienced flight school manager can be a comforting expert support system for a first-time aircraft buyer.
Finally, the traditional first job for career-minded pilots is to become an instructor to build time. As the airlines press to hire more young pilots more quickly, flight schools need to replace these instructors as the turnover speeds up. This opens up great opportunities for “seasoned” GA pilots who are looking for a rewarding second career as they wind down their working years and want to get more involved in flying—and give back some of the magic they’ve enjoyed over their flying years.