2020 Boeing pilot outlook predicts fewer pilots required, but not by much.

The 2020 outlook published by Boeing highlights the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but predicts only a 5% drop in new pilots required over the next 20 years.

Looking into the future isn’t easy, but every year Boeing produce their commercial market outlook that attempts to do just that. One particular section – Boeing’s Pilot and Technician Outlook – estimates the number of new pilots, technicians and cabin crew members needed worldwide.

This year, Boeing have unsurprisingly revised down their figures from 2019, but what might come as something of a shock to some people, is that those figures have only shrunk by 5% globally, and in Europe the prediction is that the market will only require 1000 fewer pilots now than was estimated last year.

Boeing’s forecast is based on fleet growth, aircraft utilisation, attrition rates and regional differences in crewing specific to aircraft type, across commercial aviation aircraft with more than 30 seats, business jets and civil helicopters. This report has become the benchmark by which large, integrated flight training organisations in particular gauge likely demand from the airlines. However, it also contains some interesting details about what the boffins at Boeing see as trends in the industry.

There’s no question that 2020 has seen the wholesale decimation of the airline industry. But while job losses have been acute across the airlines, other sectors haven’t been so badly affected and it’s important to bear this in mind when interpreting the Boeing report. It is also important to remember that this forecast period covers two decades; a slightly greater time period than has passed since the World Trade Centre attacks in 2001.

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Therefore, while the Coronavirus is likely to be foremost in the minds of those looking at professional aviation employment at the moment, it will be a distant memory to those filling some of the vacancies highlighted in the Boeing report. In fact it is possible that some of the pilots that fill those seats have even yet to be born.

Boeing believe that a recovery to 2019 levels will take around three years, and that at least some of the pilots that have left the industry who weren’t otherwise due to retire, will not be coming back. It also highlights some other interesting factors; first that cabin crew – who’s role has always primarily been the safety of passengers – now have an even more critical role in ensuring passenger confidence in the safety of air travel. Also, the report highlights the increased number of maintenance and technical personnel that will be required to bring aircraft that may not have been flown for some time, out of long-term storage as demand increases again.

All in all, Boeing’s 2020 forecast acknowledges the impact that the pandemic has had on the aviation industry, in particular the airlines, and it is unlikely to improve the mood of those reading it having lost their jobs. However, it may offer some consolation to aspiring aviators who are considering a career in aviation and are curious about the longer-term impact of this year’s downturn. The bottom line is that Boeing estimates that globally, the aviation industry will need to train as many as 763,000 pilots in the next 20 years.

The full Boeing report is available here.