Pilot shortage issue opens up new possibilities for locals in Asia
10 Dec

Pilot shortage issue opens up new possibilities for locals in Asia

That which promises a bright future for wannabe pilots will conversely prove be a headache for local airlines. In other words, when one loses, the other wins. Rapidly increasing pilot demand in the Asia-Pacific region has opened the window for aspiring airline pilots.

Global air-traffic is set to double in the next two decades with the biggest increase expected in the Asia-Pacific region. According to the International Air Transport Association, almost 4 billion passenger journeys are expected in this region alone.

Local airlines are already struggling to find skilled pilots and in the future it’s going to be even more difficult for them to do so. For this reason, eager airline pilots hoping to land a well-paid and respected job should cast their eyes towards Asia-Pacific region.

The gap between the demand and supply is indeed vast

Both aviation giants Airbus and Boeing forecast that between 540,000 to 800,000 new pilots are expected to be needed over the next 20 years (at the moment there are 290,000 active pilots, according to a statista.com report). Many of the new pilots will be needed in the Asia-Pacific region where the current requirement is already the most sizable in the history on aviation employment.

The truth of the matter is that despite various predictions and discussions, planes are not yet flying themselves without the benefit of human pilots. These professionals are badly needed and the demand for them is going to increase, alongside the Asian region’s growing economy and rising income and wealth levels, which translates into higher numbers of passengers wanting to travel.

Another important factor to consider regarding the constantly growing gap between the demand and supply is the fact that within next 5 to 10 years many older pilots are expected to retire. This means that a further day-to day increasing demand in capable professionals in the aviation sector is inevitable.

Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing aviation markets in the world. It is projected that by 2020 Vietnamese local airlines will experience an enormously big deficit of qualified pilots. Other countries in the Asia-Pacific region are no exception. Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and China are amongst those countries where the demand for pilots is growing exponentially. Local airlines are constantly racking their brains trying to find ways to attract new pilots to come and work for their companies.

Local pilots have advantages

Local pilots are amongst those most in demand, and the competition is huge. Low cost airline expansion is another important factor contributing to the pilot drought.

Let’s take Vietnam as an example. Currently there are five local airlines, almost all of them are expanding and a new local airline was launched only last year. It needed 240 new pilots alone. It is already known that 2 or even 3 airlines are planning to enter the market next year as well, so at least 300 more new pilots are going to be in demand.

Since there are not enough qualified local pilots, the management of new airlines will be forced to “steal” pilots from European, American or Australian airlines. 70% is the current number of the proportion of foreign pilots working in Vietnam’s airlines. The number of expat pilots working in other regional countries are more or less the same.

Yet this “stealing” is not a solution at all. The overly-complicated entrance and evaluation systems, largely useless, massive reams of bureaucracy as well as cultural and mentality differences are amongst many other reasons preventing foreigners from running off to work in such countries as China, despite the fact that Chinese airlines offer the highest salaries in the aviation market.

Moreover, most of the expats sign their contracts for 1 or 2 years and usually don’t end up prolonging their stays. Strategic planning and sensible thinking is necessary in the aviation industry. Everything must be planned far in advance and if it is going to be intelligent planning it must take account of those factors that either prevent pilots from remaining or are reasons for pilots to leave.

So, the airlines, that are planning on exponential growth, are in desperate need of those pilots who aren’t counting down the days until the end of their contracts. It is for this reason that most of these regional airlines are seeking to attract local pilots who are dreaming of making their careers in the sky.

New possibilities for pilots

While air-travel is booming and airlines are complaining about the escalating flight crew shortage issue, new local pilots flying both the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, can clap their hands with joy. The landing of a new career path for them may be smoother than ever before.

Facing the pilot shortage issue, regional airlines are being forced to find new ways of finding qualified pilots. In order to try and avoid a shortage of flight crew, some airlines have set up their own in-house academies to train local young people to become their future aviators.

Some airlines even fund their future flight crew training with the intent of recruiting the next generation of pilots. Other airlines are “cutting” the minimum hours required for pilots to be qualified as captains as they struggle to fill those positions as quickly as they need to.

New training centres are trying to fulfil local aviation training needs as well. Internationally recognised, one of the TOP 3 biggest independent aviation training centres in Europe, BAA Training academy launched its branch in Vietnam last year. Within a 3 month period one of the first training providers in the region prepared 30 newly skilled pilots who will be qualified to step onto the Airbus A320 flight-deck. The majority of them – local young people.

“The pilot shortage problem in the Asia-Pacific region is real and it is going to become even bigger. Especially in such countries as Vietnam where the aviation industry is one of the fastest growing in the region. Economic growth, increasing tourist numbers, long distances between cities and the growth of the middle class has allowed for more people to choose flying, and the number of pilots being trained is unable to keep up with demand.

Until now most of the Vietnamese pilots have received their training in other countries such as The United States, Australia as well as various European countries. Our mission is to prepare qualified pilots who are able to meet the industry needs locally,” says Vytautas Jankauskas, Managing Director of BAA Training Vietnam.

  1. Jankauskas admits that it wasn’t expected that the demand for the Type Rating training they offered would be as huge as it has been. 90% of the time the Airbus A320 full flight simulator is occupied. To meet the growing interest and need, BAA Training Vietnam in the near future is going to assemble its second Airbus A320 full flight simulator.

The importance of good training

“The pilot profession is prestigious all over the world and the Asian region is no an exception. The fact that pilots are well-paid is also an important factor. The average monthly salary in Vietnam is only around 150 US dollars. To compare, new pilots can earn around 6 000 US dollars per month. So, even though the training is expensive, within 3-4 years the investment really pays off”, says the Managing Director of BAA Training Vietnam.

What professional and personal qualities are required to make a good pilot? What is important for airlines when hiring pilots? V. Jankauskas explains: “Every airline wants well prepared and qualified pilots who are confident in their skills and abilities and do not hesitate to take a responsibility for the safety of each flight. So, they are looking for highly motivated people who have knowledge and skills to do their job well. Punctuality, an eye for the details, stable character, risk management skills, decision making and the ability of being capable of multitasking are amongst many other qualities and personality traits which are required in order to become a successful pilot”.