Global shortage of pilots is here, and its making headlines

The aviation industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world due to a rapid growth in globalisation, business travel and an appetite for international leisure travel. But, this very same

Written By Kishugu

On 03/07/2018

The aviation industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world due to a rapid growth in globalisation, business travel and an appetite for international leisure travel. But, this very same industry is suffering an international shortage of pilots and is putting a massive strain on this industry.

The aviation sector has the potential to become a huge contributor to our GDP. But unfortunately, it might not have the pilots available to keep up with this growth.

“To become a proficient pilot, ready to offer a valuable contribution to this dynamic field, takes time,” says Accountable Manager for Kishugu Aviation Training Organisation (ATO), Carel van der Merwe. “Amidst an ongoing wave of retirements and a steady supply of experienced crews is unlikely to be depleted. To fill this gap, the industry showed a great need for quality training academies to help train pilots for the future. And this is where Kishugu ATO, based in Nelspruit, plays a vital role,” says Carel.

Initially, this crisis was only thought to be a threat in the rapidly expanding Asian and Middle-East markets, but the pilot shortage has spread to the USA, Europe and Africa, as major international airlines started poaching pilots from South Africa, among these countries.

South Africa has already seen a decline in the number of qualified pilots and aviation professionals.

Did you know?

  • Senior Pilots – Roughly 40% of experienced aviation professionals in South Africa are aged 55 years and above.
  • Busier Skies – Air traffic globally is set to double by 2030.
  • Shortage – An estimated 533,000 new commercial airline pilots are needed in order to support the growth of aviation over the next 20 years.
Why the shortage?

There are two main factors that are contributing to a shortage of pilots within the aviation industry, these are:

  • Money and time – It can be a time-intensive and costly path to becoming a pilot. A combination of academic fees, substantial flight hours and a series of certifications all add up to a substantial expense, followed by more flight time typically built through several jobs before establishing one’s career path as a commercial pilot. According to Carel, to choose a career in aviation, is not necessarily more expensive than becoming a doctor or lawyer. It’s more or less in the same segment in terms of money, time and qualification, it’s ultimately where ones’ passion lies.
  • In the latter end of a pilot’s career spectrum, a mandatory retirement age of 65 is set. A wave of pilots is now at, or near retirement age.

How to tackle the crisis

Being a pilot used to be perceived as one of the most exciting career choices available, which it still is today. But we are competing with a range of other exciting opportunities and career choices that didn’t even exist a decade ago.

Kishugu® ATO believes that the solution is in the formal learning and development of practical flying skills that are required to obtain a Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL). This is the foundation for all other future flying training. Carel continues “By exposing pilots to essential training earlier on in their careers, through the form of AB Initio, Advanced and Direct entry training courses, easily sets them apart from other pilots.

We need to expose the youth of today to the world of Aviation. Not many young adults are aware that they can have a pilot’s licence before they have a driving licence. At the age of 16, one can start with a PPL and do their first solo flight before even having a driver’s licence.”

After you have gained your PPL, you can continue with your Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) and Advanced Training to become a fighter pilot. Kishugu ATO offers all these courses which will help adapt the pilot’s early operational background experience. It will also develop the skill-set required for safe and efficient multi-crew flight deck operation while consolidating existing aviation knowledge, instrument flying and technical competence.
The aviation industry is a key contributor to our country’s GDP, but it is essential for the financial and professional incentives to be in place to ensure that its most critical asset, the pilots, are properly supported. Only an appropriately integrated approach to training and career development will achieve this.

A pilot’s career path isn’t always straightforward or easy, and the work is certainly challenging. Nevertheless, hard work and dedication will allow an aspiring pilot to overcome these challenges and the doors of opportunity will ‘fly’ open. As the saying goes, ‘the sky’s the limit,’ says Carel.

Kishugu ATO has successfully trained 250 students from various countries such as local, and neighbouring countries, India and various European countries. “Our instructors have up to 20,000 hours training experience. “Our aim is to make a career as a commercial pilot more accessible to all, by reducing the high cost of flight training, encouraging greater pilot diversity and raising awareness of the need for a greater supply of pilots both in South Africa and globally.”

We urge the youth to consider a career in aviation, because as the global facts states now, pilots are becoming an endangered species.