Looming pilot shortage threatens GA

What some describe as a coming pilot shortage is already here for others, notes Wichita Business Journal aviation writer Daniel McCoy in a recent blog. “Kansas State University Salina’s professional pilot program is having trouble finding flight instructors,” he writes. “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.”


  1. Ed Watson says

    This is precisely why the various aviation groups NEED to join forces rather than compete. All have something to contribute. The modelers AMA, the EAA’ers, the general aviation AOPA and the ALPA need to get in the game and on the same team. Fixed wing and rotary, small, biz jets, military and heavy iron, as we are all in the same boat.

    • says

      Join forces to ACCOMPLIST just what – please? Suppose we have DOUBLED the pilot population in the next TEN years – what’s the NET result of this mission – safety in numbers, political clot, more $pending to GA, etc?

  2. B.J. Suffridge says

    There are many reasons why general aviation (It’s a hobby for me–a damned expensive hobby!!) has become so expensive–from purchase, to parts, to fuel, to mechanical intervention. After my son and I bought a new model Cessna 182, after having earned my certificate in an old model 172, I was checking the sumps when my flight instructor said, “do you know why this plane has so many check points when the 172 only had two?” My answer was, “no, I was wondering that myself?” His reply—“lawyers.” I rest my case.

  3. Roland Desjardins says


    I appreciate your frustration with the lack of pay as a flight instructor. They are the front line of encouraging people into aviation, but part of the problem with luring people into aviation is reduced spending power up against increased cost of flying (fuel costs are a part of the cost increase). That being said, if you want to see people moving away from flight training in droves and flight instructors losing their jobs as quickly, start paying flight instructors $50K a year.

    I’ve been a pilot since 1968 and flew as a military and airline pilot. I love everything about airplanes, but the reality is I don’t recommend aviation as a career to young people. It’s too expensive to get into and then not the career everyone looks up to with respect. Now that the FAA has instituted a new and inexplicable requirement of 1500 hrs. and an ATP to become a first officer at the airlines there may very well be a pilot shortage. However, it will take the aviation industry years to react to the problem which will restrain economic growth for our aviation businesses.

    Am I sounding to gloomy?

    • says

      Hi Roland – again! I do believe, in certain high density markets, like Dallas/FT Worth, LA Metro, Chicago metro or NY/NJ Metro, that CFI’s could earn and be paid $40-45K+ per year. How: Lets use the following “dual” rate (paid) of $40/hr
      850 hrs (flight instruction) = $34,000
      50 ” (simulator ” ) = 2,000
      200 hrs (ground instruction*) = 8,000
      Performance bonus** 2,000
      Total Annual gross Income $46,000
      This would amount to about 22 “billing” or work hours per instructor per week – possible – with efficient scheduling/booking!
      *Individual (one on one) tutoring or briefing/debriefing per flight/simulator lesson
      ** Completion of certificate sought by “student”

      Possible; IF management VALUES the student/customer and his/her own financial well being!

  4. Gordon Arch says

    I started my flight training in 2000. At the time I was interested in a career but knew I would one day have a wife who would want some luxuries in life like food, clothing, and shelter. I did not finish, and didn’t even get my private ticket
    My ultimate decision to stop the GA training was strictly due to the costs and I had run out of play money. The reason I stopped chasing after the dream was the long and Payless life ahead of me to get me into that first ATP/Freight cockpit. Sometimes I wish I had stayed the course, but generally I reflect and realize I made the best decision for myself and what would be my future family.
    I do still dream and often think of going back to at least get my private ticket. But until my employment situation improves I am grounded and left to my inner teasing with trips to the local field to watch from outside the fence where i witness someone following their dream.

    We are told the economy is improving…. Someone around my state forgot to read that memo.

    • says

      A “personal” response to Gordon; Don’t give up on your dream; I’m in my 71st year and would like to believe that either an investment group or some savey business person who feels that a PROFIT can be made in GA and wants a “cut to the chase” marketing oriented wise old entrepenuer who could “put me to work”!

      I. like so many of the disenchanted piloting professionals, decided that GA, as a BUSINESS, had nothing to offer me and left in 1978 at age 34!

      Frankly, and I don’t think those actively would disagree me here, is IF GA, and the airline too, were APPROACH with this premise: HOW do we BEST come up with a “game plan” so the “EVERYBODY”, (stakeholders/shareholders/management/employees D wins

      • says

        To Gordon: NOTE: somehow this got sent prematurely and incomplete, so here’s the finish (and before spellcheck and edited)
        The sooner the entire GA industry gets down to SERIOUS business and ends this pre -puberty “fun” sandbox behavior, perhaps the “bird” (GA) can be saved before it crashes and burns!
        Don’t buy this $$$ motive? Then ask this question: WHY are the major FBO chains aiming to be profitable as their objective or US Aviation in Denton (TX) an example , A GA retail (FBO, etc) enterprising business’s? IT’S A BUSINESS FIRST and incidentally, it’s AVIATION in that order – maybe?

        GA’s SOLUTION?: BRING in TOP experienced/educated business people to do what they do BEST – management and market, AND let the pilot/instructors/AP tech’s do what they do BEST – fly/instruct and repair! Now doesn’t that sound easy?

  5. says

    Follow the money…or lack of it?

    Newsflash – Pay a flight instructor a wage they can live on…no more problems? Know many flight instructors being offered $45,000 – $50,000 salaries? Try putting the money where your mouth is, and you will have high quality flight instructors at your door.

    While trying to make a living as a flight instructor 25 years ago, I realized I was in a whorehouse industry of wages with 7 other part time instructors. Not one of us was making any real money, I did it to get the flight experience, but considering my college classmates that were already fast-tracking to serious wages, I was “living the dream”?

    As Rod Beck made the statement, the “romance of aviation” has lost its “fun” when you consider the amount of money and time spent to get to the “profession”, while the return in wages and salary doesn’t make any sense. Not that aviation always had a real living wage, but the fact is – instead of thinking there is a pilot shortage, what we really have is a living wage shortage.

    Any questions? Follow the money and it will provide the why/when/where as to what is happening in aviation. Want quality flight instructors? Figure out how to run a business that provides a better income for the instructor, and you won’t have a problem finding pilots/flight instructors…there are MANY pilots with full qualifications that are working in other sectors due to salary and security Vs. the smell of 100LL.

  6. Bob says


    I’m a pilot. We’ve been hearing about the “looming pilot shortage” for DECADES,….. and it has never materialized.

    Some major airlines are hiring pilots at this time. Like 20,000 of my closest friends, I too have applied for a job at all of the major and national airlines who are accepting applications, (and even quite a few airlines who are NOT currently advertising that they are accepting applications). I have received exactly ZERO phone calls to interview with those airlines.

    THERE IS NO PILOT SHORTAGE! There may someday be a shortage of pilots who are willing to accept poverty-level wages,….. but there will always be plenty of pilots who are willing to accept a job that pays a reasonable, livable wage, commensurate with the investment and education required to do this job.

    We’ll know that the fabled “pilot shortage” is here when ONE THING happens: airlines *VOLUNTARILLY* raise pilot pay scales in order to attract new pilots AND *RETAIN* the pilots they currently have.

    • says

      Bob; getting smarter – as if you aren’t already. Get into a related non-piloting aviation gig, OR, as I said, for example, get into the business of health care or some NEED business; make the$200K+, have financial security, AND buy the “toy” (bird) of your choice – and you won’t have to be a slave as an aviation professional to enjoy flying any longer.
      It seems to me the days of “attracting” the idealistic and naive are soon to be history!

  7. says

    Building the hours to become an ATP is extremely high and that cost per hour is super expensive. Add all of the foreign immigrants who are flocking here to our aviation schools, and they’re probably filling our domestic jobs at lower pay and happy to do so. I just don’t see where they get their cash unless its our government that subsidizes them for some kind of sympathy thing to help their countries.

    • Tim says

      I am sorry to say but you sound like an idiot. Foreign pilots who are flocking to aviation schools are usually sent here by foreign airlines. Foreign airlines pay US instructors. Money is coming to US. After training is done pilots come back to their countries. Why? When airline spends 10s of thousands on training they are not going to let the new pilot just leave and go to work for US airline.
      As for our government subsidizing them… I just see that you enjoy being miserable. Are you really an american?

  8. Brett S says

    I would quit my job tomorrow and work toward becoming an airline pilot if I wouldn’t incur tens of thousands in training debt for the pleasure of being paid pennies for years afterward. A very low standard of living, or bankruptcy, are the two likely outcomes. Until that problem is addressed the industry – which sets the low wages – should really stop complaining about a pilot shortage.

    • says

      Brett, Seems like your one of the few (a compliment) who AREN’T buying into the “romance” of aviation’s 24/7 culture! Like you stated, to many SMART young folks out there; why not get a REAL job making $200K+, drive a BMW, own a condo, take a cruise every year, etc, AND then buy a bird, (T-6, Extra, OR?) to fly as a hobby to satisfy one’s intoxication or passion for flying? Oh , a THIRD likely outcome; for those married – legal fees for a divorce!

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