The sudden drop in air travel demand has hindered the industry’s record growth trajectory. The consensus is that the road to recovery will span over several years. As the global aviation community looks ahead, many of us have acknowledged that our industry will have to overcome several fundamental challenges.
First and foremost, it is important to understand the ripple effects of the pandemic on the aviation industry. In March-April 2020, travel restrictions and border closures caused an abrupt decline in passenger air travel. Airlines and operators around the world have adjusted their operations to align with lower demand. Thousands of pilots have been furloughed in recent months. Many of them have pivoted to other professions and might not want to resume their pilot careers. On the one hand, airlines and operators have reduced the pilot workforce to offset the financial impact of the pandemic. On the other hand, data indicates that the industry will face significant challenges in the upcoming years to meet the demand for pilots.
Despite the short-term decline in the number of active pilots, analysis shows that the civil aviation industry will require more than 260,000 new pilots over the next decade. As air travel resumes progressively over the next several years, the industry will experience upward mandatory retirement and attrition rates. In fact, these combined challenges are expected to drive demand for about 27,000 new pilots as of the end of 2021.
The fundamental factors influencing pilot demand prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic remain unchanged. In recent years, the significant growth in passenger air traffic translated into record demand for professional pilots worldwide. Age-based retirement combined with fleet growth were and remain the main drivers of pilot demand. Third-party analysis shows that commercial aviation and business aviation markets are forecast to continue growing over the next decade – over 11,000 additional business and commercial aircraft are expected to join the active world fleet during that period.
As the industry emerges from the pandemic, CAE will continue to shape the future of pilot training alongside the global aviation community - joining forces with airlines, operators, authorities, and aircraft manufacturers to ensure the highest level of safety and security of air travel.
With this 2020-2029 Pilot Demand Outlook, we hope to arm the industry with the insights that will help the global aviation community understand, rethink, and learn about how to build and grow the supply of highly qualified pilots. CAE’s outlook also includes ideas on how to leverage data and analytical insights. The modern world is rich in new technology and our global aviation community can harness the power of artificial intelligence to meet aviation’s crewing needs of the next decade, as well as the ever-evolving safety standards.
As an industry, we have weathered global storms before and have learned from those setbacks. Following 9/11, the aviation industry failed to anticipate the important need of building a strong and steady supply of pilots to support the last decade’s record growth. Disruptive events are opportunities to innovate. Together, let's collaborate to develop the future of aviation training.