Thursday, 1 November 2012

Could the tide be turning?

I was delighted to hear today that British Airways will be re-opening their Future Pilot Programme on 19 November for a second phase of applications. It's great news for us as it demonstrates the company's commitment to the scheme and confidence in their need for us as pilots; and of course it's great news for all the aspiring airline pilots out there who now have a chance for a place probably the best airline-backed training programs around.

To those applying, I am not going to give away any specifics, but I would say firstly read the entire programme website fully and carefully several times, there is no point in applying if you don't meet the requirements, nor should you jump in feet first until you have understood the huge financial and practical commitments required.

Why not visit at least one of the training schools, they will all be happy to show you around. Talk to any working pilots you can find. And take your time with the on-line application. You can bet there will be thousands received so yours needs to be outstanding and highly polished. My recent post on competency-based questions and preparing for the assessment may be of some help.

Which brings me on to...

The last two years have been a terrible time for newly-qualified or redundant pilots. Recruitment rates are low. Pay and terms offered to new graduates particularly by the low cost operators vary from bad to awful as cost-cutting has propelled a 'race to the bottom.'

In America, only a handful of new pilots were recruited last year and thousand of experienced flight crew remain 'furloughed' — forced by their employers to take unpaid leave. Here in the UK there is no shortage of experienced pilots in the 'hold pool' looking for work.

Yet last summer, in the midst of this rather grim picture, British Airways surprised many by launching a major recruitment drive in the form of their Future Pilot Programme (clearly I'm glad they did!)

But why, when qualified pilots are virtually hanging around on street corners desperate for work? They are not only replacing retiring flight crew, it is more than that. Someone in the higher echelons of management believes in a need for more pilots over the next five years due to significant expansion.

It's starting to look like they are not only correct, but well ahead of the game.

Expecting to shift planes... A lot of planes...

Boeing have just published their annual forecast of future demand, which they call the Current Market Outlook. Now, they have been in this game longer than anyone else and they know what they are about. Historically their predictions have generally proved pretty accurate, barring unforeseeable events like the attack on the World Trade Centre.

Over the next 20 years, Boeing expect airlines will buy some 34,000 new planes, doubling the current world fleet. They will cost something in the region of $4.5 trillion. Yes, trillion. What is more the other major manufacturer, Airbus, broadly agree with them. Their forecasts are based on an average growth in passenger numbers of 4% which is far from outlandish (last year the industry actually managed closer to 5%.)

And who is going to fly these shiny new aircraft? If correct, these figures imply that 460,000 more pilots will be needed by 2031. Admittedly, much of this expansion will be in China and the Pacific regions, but they still expect to require another 110,000 in Europe — or 5500 per year.

That is a lot of pilots. In fact, it is probably more than the existing flight schools can supply, particularly as quite a few have gone to the wall in recent months.

As bad as things might be in the employment game right now, for cadets just starting their training the future could be a lot brighter.

Normal service will be resumed...

Sorry I realise that was not the most rivetting post I have written, I will try harder next time.

Meanwhile, here is a rather nice time-lapse video of some of British Airway's Boeing 777ER aircraft being assembled. Engineering geeks in particular — Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Actually Ive found this post very interesting. It does seem somewhat ambitious to say that so many pilots will be required (and the FTOs will gleefully use these analyses to sell lots of training courses), but the foundations (i.e. Boeing and Airbus' forecasts) do seem to be accurate based on historical data.

    5500 a year in Europe alone? I hope it turns out to be correct.

    Good luck with your future!


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