Pilots Wanted: How A Pinched Pilot Pipeline is Threatening Aviation
November 15, 2013
  • Share
  • What some describe as a coming pilot shortage is already here for others.

    Kansas State University Salina’s professional pilot program is having trouble finding flight instructors.

    Other flight schools are having trouble making a go of it.

    And over it all looms the problem of commercial airlines needing an increasing number of pilots, which aggravates the situation in general aviation.

    The pilot shortage is a complex problem, and in this week’s Wichita Business Journal I took a look at its impact on the general aviation industry.

    I know plenty of private pilots in Wichita who use their aircraft as business tools, so we aren’t simply talking about hobby pilots here.

    It appears that that demographic — older business owners — is still interested in becoming pilots. Sources I talked with said the most demand for flight training seems to be coming from people over 40.

    That, I think, is evidence that the cost of becoming a private pilot — about $8,000 to $14,000 depending on where and how you train — is pinching the pipeline of new pilots, particularly younger ones.

    Numbers from the Federal Aviation Administration show that even though the number of active, registered private pilots has decreased, the number of flight students entering training is on the rise.

    The problem seems to be getting those students to finish the training and become private pilots — and then continue on to higher ratings.

    Cost is a difficult issue. Fuel prices aren’t going to get drastically cheaper, nor are the costs of operating an aircraft.

    Some are looking at ways flight instructors can generate additional revenue in the hopes that could lower the cost.

    And there is some thought that perhaps airlines could do more to supplement the training.

    But, what most told me is that the key is really to get more people interested in flying.

    I’m interested to hear from you on this.

    What ideas do you have to lower the cost of training, get more people flying, or both?