Many young future pilots wrote to me asking if, in my opinion, this was the right time to become a pilot, to enrol in a flight school and pursue a career as an airline pilot, given the uncertainty and the decline in air transport generated by the pandemic of Covid-19.
The answer is not simple and there is probably no correct answer. But I still want to try and give an opinion on this issue and try to help clarify ideas.
Maybe you can give me a hand too, by writing your opinion in the comments.
Request for pilots in 2021
Let’s start with what we know. The pandemic caused a drop in air transport by more than 60% in 2020. This has generated a domino effect in the layoffs in aviation (airport personnel, pilots, flight attendants, maintenance technicians, etc.).
Anyone would think to wait and take some time to see how long it will take for the market to recover because there is conflicting information in this regard.
CAE has released a presentation in which it tries to give an indication of the number of pilots needed between now and 2029. Even without going too far in time, it is expected that by the end of 2021 27,000 new pilots will be needed to replace pilots close to retirement.
These 27,000 add to the number of existing pilots, despite the decline in the number of active pilots caused by the pandemic.
Looking ahead in the next decade, CAE predicts that another 260,000 new pilots will be needed by 2029, reaching a total of 484,000 active pilots in 2029, thus confirming that the factors prior to Covid-19 that led to the increase in the number of airline pilots have not changed (retirements and an increase in fleets).
Another confirmation comes from some airlines. For example, Ryanair has just signed a contract with Boeing to purchase 75 new 737-MAXs. It is not certain, but this increase in the number of aircraft in the fleet could also lead to the hiring of new pilots.
Air transport forecast for 2021
All these data, however, are in contrast with what IATA stated on the forecasts of the number of passengers that will be transported in 2021. We must foresee two very distinct moments: a downward trend in the first half of 2021 and an upward trend for the second. half.
Here are the numbers expected for 2021:
- 45% less revenue than in 2019
- An increase in the number of passengers by 2.8 billion, which would still result in 1.7 billion less than those transported in 2019
- 61.2 million tons of cargo will be transported, practically equaling the 61.3 million in 2019, and an increase compared to 2020 when 54.2 million tons were transported
- Passenger numbers of 2019 will not be matched before 2024
- Airline’s debt will have to be recovered for several billion to restore their accounts
I wonder if the reduced number of passengers that will be transported (and therefore the probable lower number of planes used), and the accounts to be restored will really give space to new pilots as many other are waiting to return to service.
What should I do if I want to become a pilot?
At this moment my advice is to dedicate this time to gather as much information on what you need to do to become a pilot.
Collecting information, comparing them, visiting flight schools, contacting pilots on duty, talking with other people who wish to become pilots takes a lot of time, especially in this period when it is difficult to move.
It would take a long time even without the pandemic, after all, you have to make an important choice that will change your life. Therefore, I believe that this is the best time to do it and to take all the time necessary to make the right choices.
If you decide to study to become an airline pilot, you won’t do anything wrong. Once you get out of the pandemic, if you already have your license in hand you will have an advantage over other pilots who still have to finish their journey.
Therefore, the uncertain moment will come to an end and given the long path to becoming a pilot take advantage of this time for the two important phases when deciding to become a pilot:
- Have all the information you need (right choice of flight school, financial situation and a plan to achieve your goal).
- Organize yourself to take the plunge in case you decide you want to get started.
I hope that this brief analysis may have given you more ideas. If not, please write to me for more information.