Why the World is Running Out of Pilots

Why the World is Running Out of Pilots


This video was made possible by Brilliant. Learn with Brilliant for 20% off by being
one of the first 200 to sign up at Brilliant.org/Wendover. For the longest while airlines treated pilots
as a renewable resource. It was long considered one of the best jobs
one could have—to make good money flying around the world in comfort—but as aviation
has become more commonplace the job of pilot has too become more and more just like any
other job. While in the 50s the job garnered the same
respect and pay as a doctor, entering the industry today earns you not much more than
you’d make at a fast food restaurant. Before a pilot can even perform their first
take-off with passengers in the back they have to get licensed. Most top airline jobs require or strongly
favor those with a college diploma so for those that want to go all the way in the field
they have to start by getting a degree. The cost of that averages $133,000 in the
US and then every aspiring commercial pilot first needs to get a private pilots license
which requires 35 hours of flight-time. These first bits of flight time, which are
with an instructor, typically cost about $140 an hour or $4,900 total. You also have to take classes which have their
own fees so getting a private pilots license usually costs about $8,000 all in. To start actually making money as a pilot,
though, you need 15 additional hours of instruction for an instrument rating costing $900 and
an additional 215 hours of flight time costing $23,500. There are also tons of other smaller costs
for books and housing and transportation and other things which bring the total cost of
pilots training to at least $80,000. Having done all that, having spent $213,000
on education so far, one finally receives a commercial pilots license but still, at
that point, one can’t work for most airlines. To get an Airline Transport Pilot License,
the one needed to work for large commercial airlines by the likes of Delta or KLM or Cathay
Pacific, one needs, with some exceptions, 1,500 flight hours. That would cost an additional $136,000 in
rental fees alone if one were to pay for the flight time themselves so pilots normally
let someone else pay for it by working at a job that doesn’t require a full ATP license. The most common job used to get from 250 to
1500 hours is as a flight instructor but some also work flying skydiving planes, towing
banners, or for airlines flying small single-engine planes. Once that’s all done, after having been
in education continuously for a quarter of ones life until the age of 23 and having spent
hundreds of thousands of dollars one can finally start flying commercial passenger planes and
earning $30,000 a year. That’s a typical and even fair starting
salary for a first year first officer and, considering these individuals often have tens
or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, young pilots are often in a tough financial
situation. Most Americans pilots start their commercial
careers at regional airlines. The largest of these is SkyWest airlines which
is an airline that flies for other airlines. You could be flying any of the three major
American airlines—Delta, United, or American—and actually be on a Skywest operated flight. Skywest, along with other regional airlines,
operate all planes for these US airlines with under 76 seats. They fly the smallest planes which are actually
more expensive on a per passenger basis to operate than the larger planes. The regional airlines’ primary purpose is
to lower cost. The aviation industry is heavily unionized
so the major airlines would never be allowed to bring in pilots at a yearly salary of twenty
or thirty thousand dollars. Therefore, they contract these regional carriers
to operate the small expensive planes so the crew can be employed at a different pay-scale
even if the flights are branded as United or Delta or American. While a first year first officer for American
Airlines makes $88 per flight hour, a first year first officer for SkyWest only makes
$37. Pilots are only allowed to fly 900 hours per
calendar year in the US which works out to 75 hours per month or about 17 hours per week. Now, the idea of a 17 hour workweek probably
sounds great but these are only the hours in command of an airborne aircraft. They don’t account for the time it takes
to get to the airport, clear security, brief for the flight, inspect and prep the aircraft,
board passengers, deplane passengers, pack up, file paperwork, and get home or to a hotel. Pilots are primarily paid based on hours in
the air which is why you tend to see the more senior pilots flying the longer routes. A typical four-day trip for a regional pilot
in the US might see them flying on Monday from Minneapolis to Fargo, Fargo to Minneapolis,
Minneapolis to Pittsburgh, then Pittsburgh to Boston where they would stay overnight. The next day, Tuesday, they would fly from
Boston to Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh to Boston, and Boston to Nashville. After an overnight they would fly Nashville
to Boston, Boston to Jacksonville, and Jacksonville to Boston. Finally, on Thursday, they would fly from
Boston to Norfolk and then Norfolk to Minneapolis. Over that four day, twelve leg trip they would
be in the air for just over 19 hours. That regional pilot would have been almost
constantly either working, sleeping, or eating. Compare that to a long-haul pilot flying an
a330. They would leave Atlanta on a Monday night,
fly to Amsterdam arriving Tuesday morning, and fly back Thursday after having had a full
48 hours free in Amsterdam. On that trip the pilot would have accumulated
16 flight hours—not all that different from the hours that the regional pilot gained after
working constantly for four days. It’s no wonder why the most senior pilots,
who have the seniority to decide which type of plane and routes they fly, almost always
go for the long-haul routes. Meanwhile, while the young pilots don’t
get paid much and work tougher schedules, the advantage for them of working for these
regional airlines is that they can gain the experience and hours needed to get a job at
a more desirable airline. The problem that the airline industry if facing
is that not enough people are willing to put themselves through all the years of expensive
training, low pay, and long hours to get to the stage where they make good money and fly
the most interesting routes. There is a shortage of pilots but it’s hard
to know how bad this shortage is—some say it’s a myth, others will say it’s already
chronic—but by one estimate the US alone will have 1,600 pilot jobs unfilled by 2020. While the problem is only predicted to get
worse, the shortage of pilots is already having consequences. Emirates Airlines denies having any pilot
shortage but the reality is that in April 2018 they flew 36 777’s and 10 a380’s
over to Dubai World Central Airport, a less busy airport than the main Dubai airport,
and left those airplanes there on the ground for months because there just weren’t enough
pilots to fly them. The concerning thing is, Emirates pilots are
some of the best paid in the industry. Even young Emirates pilots make more than
$200,000 a year and, thanks to local laws, that’s tax-free income. Emirates has come under criticism for long
work hours, insufficient rest periods, and minimal pilot staffing for their longest haul
flights which is likely a contributing factor to their difficulty in attracting pilots but,
if they’re having trouble recruiting pilots while paying so much that’s not a great
sign for the industry. These high salaries from some airlines are
also a contributing factor to the shortage in the US and Europe, though. The UAE is a small country with two massive
airlines so they rely on recruiting foreign pilots. China, while not a small country, also doesn’t
have enough local pilots to staff their tremendously fast growing airline industry. The country’s airlines therefore pay a starting
salary of $312,000 per year to foreign pilots and some make up to $500,000. While working conditions are tough, it’s
still no wonder why 10% of all pilots in China are now foreigners. With more and more pilots heading overseas
to the best paying pilot jobs the US, Europe, and other western countries are left with
fewer and fewer people to fly their planes. The short-term solution for airlines in the
US has been to fast track pilots through the early phase of their careers flying small
jets for low pay and get more pilots flying the larger planes earlier. That leaves the brunt of the impact of this
shortage on small towns served by these small planes. US airlines especially, thanks to the country’s
vastness, operate with route networks emphasizing service to small airports. Rather amazingly, there are 553 airports in
the US with commercial service. United is perhaps the most focused among the
big three US airlines on small town service with 235 domestic destinations but, due to
the lack of pilots, it’s having to cancel routes. In September 2018 alone the airline stopped
service from Chicago to Willard, Illinois, Mobile, Alabama, and Manchester, New Hampshire
even though these routes were likely profitable. United isn’t alone in this. Horizon Air, the subsidiary operating Alaska
Airlines’ regional flights, had to cancel thousands of flights in 2017 due to a severe
lack of pilots. There are a couple of possible solutions to
this crisis. The most obvious one is to increase pay and
to improve working conditions but, from the airlines’ perspectives, that’s the last-ditch
solution as they focus on their bottom lines. While it’s tough to sympathize with these
billion dollar businesses losing some money as a result of paying a more livable wage,
the reality is that if they’re having to pay more for the pilots to serve small towns
it’s going to cost more to fly to small towns and those living in small towns are
often the ones least able to pay. Another commonly proposed solution is to attract
more women pilots. Only 6.7% of the world’s pilots are female
and so, by putting more effort into recruiting that half of the population airlines could
potentially increase pilot numbers without increasing pay. More and more airlines, such as Lufthansa
and Emirates, are also operating up their own flights schools where cadets can train
for reduced rates or for free as long as they end up working at the airline. Airlines are also working to reduce the number
of pilots needed. Emirates, for example, reduced the number
of pilots it uses on some of its longest flights. On the 13 hour flight from Dubai to Sydney,
for example, they now only staff three pilots instead of four which means that each only
gets four hours of inflight rest instead of six. Finally, one of the more controversial proposals
to fix this issue has been to increase automation in the cockpit to the point where only one
or possibly zero pilots are needed to fly. This proposal has met criticism from pilots,
cabin crew, and the public alike as many opponents point out that the cockpit is already highly
automated and the pilot’s main role is to troubleshoot if things go wrong. Nonetheless, with captains of wide-body planes
earning more than $300 per flight hour the cost of crewing the cockpit can be as much
as $19,000 each way on the longest flights like San Francisco to Singapore so there’s
certainly financial pressure on airlines to cut down the need for pilots if they can. There are thousands of people who become pilots
each year but there are millions more who want to become pilots. To bring more people into the industry all
airlines need to do is to lower the extraordinarily high barrier to entry since as the industry
grows worldwide, the allure of the skies won’t be enough to get enough pilots into the cockpit. If you want to become a pilot two of the major
things you absolutely need to have a solid grasp of are math and physics. Brilliant is a great place to learn those
two subjects since their courses break down concepts into their intuitive principles and
build them back up so you don’t just memorize how do something, you understand it. They also have plenty of other courses on
super interesting subjects like logic, probability, astronomy, machine learning, and more. They really put a lot of work into perfecting
each and every course they have and best of all, you can sign up for Brilliant at brilliant.org/Wendover
and access some courses for free then, by being one of the first 200 to use that same
link, you will also get 20% off when you upgrade to premium and you’ll be helping to support
Wendover Productions.

100 thoughts on “Why the World is Running Out of Pilots

  1. Hey all, a few people have had some questions about the break-down of costs for a ATP License at the beginning of this video so I thought I’d try to clear things up and show a few sources for the different components.

    College Cost: I misplaced the original source that lines up exactly with $133k but this statistic is about the same accounting for yearly growth.
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/238112/university-attendance-costs-in-the-united-states/

    Private Pilots License: I said $8,000 in the video based off a source’s estimate. Looking at a random selection of flight schools’ estimates it could be even a little higher. Many have also pointed out that the vast majority of individuals can only apply with 40 hours flight time (a small minority of US pilots are trained under Title 14 of federal code part 141 which allow them to apply with 35 hours.) While I was choosing to use the lowest numbers for training as to not sensationalize the cost numbers (it’s sensational enough as it is) I probably should have done the math for 40 hours (maybe even more as many need more hours to gain the skills needed) to get a more average estimate.
    $9,950: https://www.illinoisaviation.com/flight-training/private-pilot-141/
    $8,123: http://www.stcharlesflyingservice.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/CostEstimateToAdvance.pdf
    $7944: http://www.flyhafc.com
    $9500: https://www.executiveflighttraining.com/Private_Pilot_License.html

    Instrument Rating: The way I presented this bit was definitely confusing. The $900 I mentioned was accounting for the ground training and then I wrapped the hours needed for an instrument rating into the additional hours needed for a commercial pilots license (215/210.)

    Commercial Pilots License: From the comments I’ve read nobody really disagrees with the estimate I put for the overall CPL cost but here’s the source I used anyways.
    $80,000: https://www.l3airlineacademy.com/us-career-programs/pilot-training-cost

  2. Embry Riddle only requires 1000 hours for an atp licence. However you run a high risk of contracting riddlevision. The choice is yours.

  3. Insentivize specifically female pilots

    Does that mean the pilots want to join out of there needs to be more women in piloting or because they won’t care about the problems as much

  4. Simple Fix. U.S. airlines need to help subsidize education cost with a guarantee 5 year post-graduation contract. So you trade your educational cost for a 5 year commitment from a pilot. After that they can go wherever they want.

  5. pay too little = lesser pilots wants to fly = drop in business profit
    airlines considering to be robots or AI to fly plane to risk passengers life?
    profit goes even further bankrupt.
    END of story for airlines.

    BUT, if airlines pay a lot more better, give pilots lessons or flight schools, but pilots must sign a contract with them at least 10 years ( if unable, pilots must pay 150% of the whole cost) = more pilots = profits in business.

  6. So, shouldn't it come full circle? Like, we're gonna reach a point where every airline desperately needs new pilots to continue existing, so they're forced to pay higher salaries?

  7. why when the male pilots no longer work/can't work, the women are supposedly supposed to accept whatever pay comes their way?

  8. hmm- a job with crushing student debts, shitty hours which make parenting impossible and shockingly low wages relative to the responsibility and skill. so"GIVE the jobs to women"? You mean ; make pilot schooling FREE for THEM? Schedule flights around their parenting needs? or WAIVE their training and performance testing? yep-gender quotas!

  9. Well, the problem will self correct when the airlines have people trying to buy tickets but there are no pilots to fly them.

    Gee the bus and train companies will see an influx of passengers.

  10. Nice to see stuff like this coming out. As an aviation student, I really appreciate people drawing attention to this.

    One thing I feel could have been mentioned is that airlines have some of the lowest profit margins of any industry – not just because of pilot salaries, but also the extraordinarily high cost of jet fuel and maintenance. This last is thanks to all the media coverage, which causes organizations like the NTSB to mandate extremely high standards for aviation safety. Back to the first reason, that is the main reason why the 787 is so popular – at launch, it was about 20% more fuel efficient than the industry standard (according to Boeing) which saves airlines untold millions in fuel.

    I'd continue on, but I realized this is getting very long-winded. Thanks again for covering this!

  11. Pilot pay starts at $15/hr – you can make more by cutting grass.
    Atp – starting wages -$35k – plumbers make close to $100k. GTFO

  12. 9:02 people in small towns have the most trouble paying for flights? Is anything to back this up? Or is it an assumption?

  13. If you're willing to pay your senior pilots $500,000, surely you have the funds to pay your entry-level pilot a livable wage.

  14. Would like to note that some go into a military program. Forgot the name but you train and also are in college at the same time which saves a lot on the cost, but it doesn’t matter because most pilots don’t make shit anyways and with horrible hours, except a select few. It just isn’t a good job industry and some of these American airline companies suck.

  15. I couldn't simply because I have problems with numbers, but the video covered the bases very well indeed. What I don't understand is that major airlines all have the capability and resources to reduce the barriers to entry (even if they don't touch the actual wages), yet very few do so. I'm just happy to visit my local training simulator which is open for public hire… at least you can mess around in them on purpose lmao

  16. I wanted to be a pilot, hell my friends dad taught me how to fly… But exactly as you said, i wouldnt be able to live where i live today on that pay alone. matter of fact it would be hard to even rent an apartment since prices are so high. its honestly depressing how industries can hit you in the face with the harsh reality and pull you out of your dream.

  17. That 40 hours for Private License is incorrect. It usually takes around 80 to 100 hours. That rule hasn’t been updated since the 1930s

  18. On top of these wages is 10% super, usually 6 weeks annual leave paid, health insurance, wages was as 2012-2013, a lot more now.
    QANTAS

    767 Captain – $227,760

    737 F/O – $114,000

    Virgin Blue

    A330 Captain – $193,000

    A330 F/O – $126,000

    737 Captain – $190,334

    737 F/O – $104,684

    E-jet Captain – $152,267

    E-jet F/O – $83,747

    V Australia

    B777 Captain – $207,934

    B777 F/O – $120,924

    B777 S/O – $61,285

    Jetstar

    A330 Captain – $180,871

    A330 F/O – $99,480

    A320 Captain – $158,659

    A320 F/O- $87,626

  19. Millenials hate rules. They grew up under that shit and they can't stand that garbage any more.
    Aviation is full of asshat rules made by little fucking hallway monitors.

  20. $133,000 is an inflated cost for a degree unless you're going to a private university. However, the rest of the numbers are accurate and either way the economics of being a commercial pilot is horrible.

  21. Paying for a Commercial airline Pilot license of $100000 & above & then also not getting Jobs ,Do u think it's easy ! ,
    That's the only reason i stepped back for becoming a Pilot .

    ( BTW i still like Planes & Airports )

  22. we've seen with B737 max's two fatal crashes that Automation (zero pilots) isn't safe at all , because if sensors who feed main computer with data are malfunctioning , the computer flying the plane processing erroneous data could direct it toward a mountain or dive toward the ground .

  23. for me i think it would be less about the pay and cost of getting in and more that you just spend so much time away from friends

  24. I’m 14 and want to become a pilot, this video scares me away, should I be a pilot? I mean the requirements are hella expensive but I think it pays well, maybe I’m not sure I think 100,000 to 200,000 a year sounds good to me but hey I’m 24 what do I know about financial

  25. I go to college to be a pilot. It cost me 7,000 a semester. I’ll have my commercial license in 2 1/2 years. 7,000 a semester. 2 semesters a year $35,000 in total with a total of 500 flight hours.

  26. I am willing to do this tough job…. Only if I can afford it…. Become pilot is way more expensive than tough….

  27. being pilot is hours of boredom interrupted by moments of terror…sitting hours in front of instruments is not my idea of an ideal job…airplanes are poisoning our precious air and blocking our precious sunrays…

  28. Bruh, a commercial license in Norway costs 100k, and then you probably needs some hours which adds up to 150k(if you pay alone) and then you make 125k a year

  29. Funny, got my PPL for free, but can't afford to pay 220$/h to continue flying. Btw, military is another option, but the military has a very limited amount of space.

  30. I will work as a pilot for any airlines as long as I get a good livable amount of pay , around 4.5k amount , cuz I believe that the most important part on being a pilot is passion , and not money !

  31. I found a video from a pilot where he says that he quit his airline job to become a flight instructor. He says the salary is better and he has a better schedule.

  32. Because im Germany for example they don't even consider you if you didnt have a fucking master at Uni, they look more at your school than testing your actual skills.
    And also so fucking expensive

  33. It's gate keeping that keeps people from becoming pilots. You have to be rich, or willing to take an unreasonable amount of debt on, to become a pilot. Lowering the barrier of entry should be the FIRST step in solving this problem. At least via free college education.

  34. A flight simulator is only as good as the programmer who inputs the data, and we all know humans err! But NOTHING is as good as seat-of-the-pants flying and doing it often, without instruments, which some pilots rely on far to much today! A few years back, there was a pilot who landed at SFO, almost landing in the water before he made the runway and it was learned he had never made a landing WITHOUT a computer!! He had erred in his approached and had botched the whole approach and landing. Not good.
    It seems that today, pilots want the easy way out, having computers make all their decisions. Computers can be wonderful, but they can mistake a touch and go or a missed approach and go-around, for a complete landing and make the computer go into landing mode! Just a small example. Pilots can never become complacent, because too many things can change, unseen weather, microbursts, wind shear, crosswinds, up-drafts and down-drafts, all which require FLYING the aircraft with your own brain, hands and feet!!

  35. to fly Emirates you need an extreme amount of hours though!
    As a new pilot you would have to work for another airline before being able to work for Emirates

  36. problem is that most airlines offers jobs, but are not willing to take in unexperienced new pilots!
    It's hypocritical!

  37. This is not true at ALL atleast not in the Netherlands. Here high school is free and after high school you can start with for example transavia flight training, which costs around 68k total. After those 2 years you are immediately hired at transavia with an around 90k starting salary…

  38. Howuch I would get paid doesn't cancel out the initial cost of entry because of how time works. I need money BEFORE affording to become a pilot, not after. The issue is most jobs pay people wages where they can't afford to save for training for real careers. Trickle-down economics is killing industries that need education.

  39. I am a Captain for a major US Airline.

    I started flying in 1999 and today 20 years later the same mathematically fabricated fallacy of a pilot shortage is still being marketed.

    There is and never will be a shortage of Airline Pilots. There is a shortage of highly qualified and experienced applicants due to the lack of interest in the career for its grossly anemic compensation.

    Be assured that cockpits are filled with the required qualifications however the quality and experience of those pilots is a fraction of what once existed.

    There are grossly inexperienced pilots and quite frankly dangerous pilots occupying the cockpits of every Major US Airline.

    The reason is simple. Grossly underpaid employees who meet the bare minimum requirements for operations. Airlines refuse to pay the kind of wages that attract the most experienced aviators. Untill the economics of pilot training and pilot compensation are improved we will continue to operate under luck and and a fraction of seasoned industry professionals.

  40. That's why I quite that climb after getting half way through my instrument rating. I got my private pilots license at 19 to. It's just to expensive then you live in a suitcase your whole life.

  41. There is no pilot shortage. For any pilot willing to give up their job there are 10 pilots dying to take his/her place. Classrooms at Skywest are jammed full all the time. New classes start every two weeks.

  42. kiss goodbye to those big planes if spaceX starship starts doing point to point transit 😛 i wonder how much those pilots will get paid lol. if there even any pilots lol

  43. So even though new pilots works 17 hours a week they wouldn't even be able to get a second job for extra income? Well… Thats rough.

  44. My flight class is 11,000 + .. just 1 semester class.. ^ chuckles in property ^

    Maybe I should head to China too 🤦🏻‍♀️

  45. Flight school is so expensive that not even my GI bill will cover it. However, if it was easy then everyone would do it. The challenge is hard but the reward is worth it. I'm so dedicated to becoming a pilot.

  46. In the UK you just have to do well in GCSE and then British Airways will pay for you! If you get in you are guaranteed a spot!

  47. Getting newer or younger pilots to fly the bigger airlines sooner is dangerous. You are allowing inexperienced pilots on long haul flights. The pay shouldnt be the only draw of the job. Stop allowing technology taking over the role of the pilot. Expensive dial turners or button pushes. Bring back the days when the pilots had to do most of the flying. Only use autopilot if necessary not for the whole flight

  48. Attract more women so you can get more workers without increasing pay.
    Well, there you have it….the story of wage stagnation in the 20th century summed up in a sentence.
    Ever wonder why your grandparents had the same quality of life with only one spouse working? Because there was only 1/2 the labor pool and therefor the laws of the supply and demand dictated that they were paid approximately twice as much.
    Society let the globalists and corporations trick families into providing twice the labor for the same cost. What a win….for….feminism?

  49. Another possible cause that you failed to mention also, is the fact that the military is training less Pilots then they did in the past. That issue alone is causing a shortage of Pilots here in the US.

  50. Gotta say I am currently in school to be a pilot and when discussing the cost of training at the beginning that was relatively accurate but you picked the lower end of plane/instructor fee and also assumed people get their License in the minimum flight time I’m on the higher end of the spectrum but I still don’t have my private license with about 60hours it also should be mentioned that while the classes you can get fasfa to help out with fasfa will not pay for flying so you are left to pay out of pocket by working multiple jobs(like me) or be lucky and be born into a wealthy family or you can try to find a place to get a loan from but with no significant income and nothing to put up it’s hard to find a place willing to give you all that money

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *