Pilot shortage on the horizon?

Pilot surplus…pilot shortage. It’s a delicate balancing act between the aviation industry and flight training academies throughout the United States — a balancing act that was the center of discussion at Delta Connection Academy’s recent pilot summi at the academy’s headquarters in Sanford, Florida.

“The general consensus in the industry is that a pilot shortage is imminent,” said Jason Dauderman, CFO of Delta Connection Academy. “Within approximately two years the pipeline of domestic pilots will not be available to meet the demand of the airlines. The summit expressed a need for more funding opportunities and plans to create a committee that will explore options to allow future aviators to continue their dream.”

The mission of the summit was to talk openly about the lack of financial assistance available to future pilots, address the public image of a commercial airline career and revisit the current training standards of student pilots and their relation to future legislation.

According to Dauderman, in 2007 Delta Connection Academy offered more than 12 lending options to future pilots. Today, potential students have one lending source. Eight out of every 10 applications are denied, raising concern that the domestic pilot pipeline is significantly drying up, even though interest in the career remains generally steady.

Tom Hood with Sallie Mae Lending reported a $1 billion write-off in educational loans this year, saying it explains why it’s increasingly difficult to obtain funding. He strongly recommended that students seeking funding have a 30% better chance of approval with a co-signor than without.

In addition to funding, one of the other central issues addressed at the summit is the perceived image of the commercial airline pilot. With pay cuts, fewer days off and pilot furloughs, it’s a view that has prompted many within pilot ranks to share the now famous Captain Sully Sullenberger’s admonitionwhen he told the U.S. House Transportation Committee that “I do not know a single professional airline pilot who wants his or her children to follow in their footsteps.”

At the Delta Connection Academy Pilot Summit, those in attendance agreed that fixing the tarnished image of the commercial pilot is critical if the industry hopes to recruit the pilots it needs in the years ahead. The consensus forged at the summit is that everything from pay to working conditions must be addressed, and quickly.

The summit concluded with an action plan to form committees focused on training, career image and funding that will proactively work to surface issues and recommendations in each area with the appropriate industry leaders. Delta Connection Academy plans on hosting a follow-up summit in early spring.

For more information: 800-U-CAN-FLY or DeltaConnectionAcademy.com.


  1. says

    What you need to do is offer aviation training paid for by the employer. If the military pays for their pilots to get trained, so should the airlines in my opinion. Due to the current economic environment, it makes hardly any sense for something to take on $50,000 in debt with no guarantee of a pilot slot. Individuals can’t write off the expense (maybe some interest if it’s a student loan) from what I understand. A corporation can write off the expense, which should give incentive to the airline to provide the training.



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