Pilot Hiring Demand-Update

By egmTacahopeful

Update Analysis:

Learned some interesting things, the 10-12% a year draw from the Regionals should last up through 2020, at which point a couple of things could happen. If Boeing’s Projections are correct we will see the draw from the regionals, (If they remain the same size over the next 8 years-unlikely) go to 20%, which would be a 2.5 year upgrade for someone who gets hired at a regional in 2020. However if Boeing's predictions are still correct but the 2.3% domestic growth comes from larger aircraft, IE CRJ 700 vs 50, 737-800 vs MD80's we might see stagnant fleet growth. Both Projections are represented on the charts.


If this is the case we can expect 10-12% to be draw from the regionals for the next 18 years. Which would make it reasonable for new pilots to assume they will spend at least 5 years in the right seat as an FO at the Regionals, followed by a couple of years in the left seat before transitioning back to the right seat at the majors. Time to upgrade at the Majors(depending on the Major) is holding at about 8-13 years. Southwest being the outlier at between 18-23 years before 50% seniority is reached.

A couple of factors could change these numbers, Military Pilots, which are not included into the calculation, will represent a percentage of Pilots that will go to the Majors displacing some Regional Pilots who will then stay longer at the Regionals. What that percentage is I do not know.

In addition- If we see substantial regional shrinkage, in the next 8 years with the loss of the 50 seat market (due to High MX cost, Fuel Cost, no replacement) even with a 2-1 swap for a 70 seat aircraft, the Regionals may contract in size as pilots leave for the majors, increasing the amount of time an FO will stay an FO at the Regionals, beyond the projected 4-5 years. At the same time as the Regionals contract in size this percentage draw from them will proportionally go up. So it could be kind of a wash. This may mitigate some of the speculated demand for pilots from new Fatigue rules.

The good news is if the Regionals shrink to half of their current size in the next 8 years the draw will represent 20-24% of the new size per year at that time. This would equate to 2.5 year upgrades as the average. This coupled with the possible growth projected past 2020 at 2.3% per year, and new draw rates of 40% due to the shrunk regionals, we could at that time I think have a potential shortage. Assuming 40% attrition rates at the regionals is unsustainable we would see a shortage sometime in the middle of the 2020's. That shortage is dependent on a lot of factors, one being not reentering a recession, etc.

Hopefully this data provides people to the opportunity to adjust their expectations to something more aligned with realistic expectations. 

This kind of data could be one of the reasons pilot loans are becoming more difficult to get, the banks are realizing the return on investment with current projections is just not sufficient to justify 80-220,000$ of educational expense to go out and make 17-45,000 for the next 5-8 years. Interestingly as shown on the Rate of Return page, for a college graduate who invests and additional 40,000$ in flight training on top of a run of the mill Bachelor degree at a local college, it will take 23 Years before they make a return on investment greater than the same run of the mill Bachelor degree holder who got a average job out of college.

Having said that I think there is a lot of hope for the industry, particularly as more prospective students are educated on what a rational, and reasonable career progression will look like, they can then make the decision if the cost of flight training verse the projected career track.