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  • Writer's pictureGrayson Belvin - VP/Director - EMEA Representative

A Simplified Training Approach For The Airline "Pilot Shortage"

Updated: Jul 25, 2018

Will anyone bring simplified solutions to the table to solve the pilot training issue?

So, who do you train and when do you put them in the training pipeline? Here's an article with a simplified approach (and a nifty chart) to help!

Airlines need pilots these days. The industry is growing A LOT in certain parts of the world, and the training pipeline, hiring agencies, and airlines alike are scrambling (or soon might be) to catch up.

I had the recent honor of speaking with a leader of an aviation recruiting agency, and to summarize the conversation, they and their clients need training solutions!

"...the shorted distance between an A320 sitting on the ground and one creating revenue."

Let's look at a simplified flight training approach:

Start With 3 Categories of Pilots - And Then Train Groups 2 and 3

First divide your talent pool into three distinct categories. Categories 2 and 3 are "Training Categories," and that's where we will spend most of our effort in the first part of this article.

Group 1: "Pilots Already Qualified" - For Focus on Airline Growth and Flight Cancellation Prevention

Group 1 consists of guys and gals that have the ratings, who don't need the conversions, and who are generally up to specs. You don't really need to train them. You just have to find them, incentivize them, and hire them! Let's move on. There's probably more to say here, and you are welcome to chime in by commenting!

Group 2: "Pilots Not Quite Yet Qualified" - For Focus on Airline Growth and Pilot Shortage Prevention

This is where to start regarding training (concurrent with Group 3). These are pilots, but they don't have all the bells and whistles yet. Train them, upgrade them, get them the ratings, conversions, etc that they need to get to the flight deck.

When you start by putting a little training into those "closest to qualified," you get pilots in seats and you get aircraft flying. It is the shorted distance between an A320 sitting on the ground and one creating revenue.

From this training philosophy, you first put into training those closest to qualification, and then, as you skim from the top of the talent pool, you will have to start putting more and more training into less and less qualified pilots.

But, don't be dismayed... Ab initio is here.

Group 3: "People Not Yet Pilots" - Ab Initio Training For Establishment of "Fixed Cost" Piloting

As the talent pool of "Pilots Not Quite Yet Qualified" thins out, a pilot shortage could be averted through a gradual scale-up of Ab Initio training efforts (concurrent with Group 2). In other words, as the the pool consisting of pilots who just need conversions, ratings, etc empties, then its time to pull from a different pool.

You can see in the nifty graph above that total output of qualified students can increase even as the training effort on "Pilots Not Quite Yet Qualified" goes down.

But wait. There's more! Number crunchers help me out here! With Ab Initio training (and long term employment trajectories), can the pilot-factor become more of a fixed cost for carriers, manufacturers, and agencies? Yes, overall spending on pilots could go up if a greater portion of the training (including Ab Initio) is subsidized by stakeholders, but is it worth the cost to remove volatility on the pilot supply side of the market?

Carriers are paying A LOT for pilots in certain parts of the world (for example, China). Although I do want pilots to be paid what they should earn (I have alluded to this in another article), some of the pay rates seem more related to a supply side lack than to a long term market-balanced reality.

Simplified or Naive?

OK, those are my thoughts on a simplified training approach. Accurate? Incomplete? Naive? If incomplete or naive, please chime in and help!

"...they and their clients need training solutions!"

Kind regards from the other side of the pond,

Grayson Belvin,


Lewis-Grays Solutions Group, LC

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