If there is a tendency for air traffic to resume sooner than expected, airlines will face a major problem: the lack of pilots. In Europe next year, only 1,000 new pilots will drop out of school, while the demand is estimated at 5,000.
In his office, Patrick Millward, director of the Aston Fly School of Flight, does not hide his satisfaction from the comforting view of the runways of the Toussaint-Le-Noble Aerodrome on the western outskirts of Paris, one of the cradles of French aeronautics. A few days ago, Maxi, the largest French school in the region, signed a contract with Ryan Air, an Irish low-cost company, to train 500 new pilots in France within four years. A deal that clarifies the situation where most airlines in the world find themselves: The lack of pilots is evident when operations resume too quickly.
However, the situation is not new. In 2019, many experts were already worried about the lack of new drivers, but with the Kovid crisis, this concern took a backseat. Companies in “survival mode” did not ask themselves the question of hiring pilotsIt’s time to find ways to break up with the oldest captains and inevitably pay higher salaries.
But the same experts did not envisage such a speedy recovery in traffic. Estimated by the International Air Transport Association for the first time in 2025, it is currently envisaged for passenger transport or freight this year.
As a result, companies are desperately looking for new pilots to respond to passenger requests, to fly new planes ordered before the health crisis, and to never really stop construction. For example, EasyJet announces recruitment of 1,000 pilots in 5 years, Ryan Air wants to hire 2,000 in the next three years And traditional airlines are not excluded: so Air France will complete the recruitment of 100 new pilots this summer for Air France and its subsidiary Transvia.
But Patrick Millward has a big problem: “Given the need for 5,000 to 6,000 new pilots per year in Europe, European schools can only train a total of 1,000 pilots.. ”Already some schools are pushing the walls to meet needs like the Airbus in Anglo.
A training: a job
For young people who can enter a school after bachelor’s, this is a good area, after 24 months of training, many school leaders recognize that almost all apprentice pilots find work in a company. This is an area that promotes retraining. “The three pilots we trained, who currently fly in companies, were formerly cabinet makers, butchers or delicatessen,” explains Patrick Millward.
In Air France, the question of taking over the “cadet” system is under study. The actual training after seeing that the selected students paid for their studies with a national company also offered them a reward equal to 80% of the minimum wage. Even better: on the part of low-cost companies, they play the seduction card by offering new pilots, for example, a company that matches their flight plans so they can return home every evening.
This breakthrough at the forefront of air traffic recovery should not be short-lived, as a study published by Boeing estimates that over the next 20 years, 612,000 pilots worldwide and 115,000 in Europe alone will join the airline. “Pilot candidates who start training today will benefit from the opportunities available at the time of graduation.. In other words, it’s easy to find a plane to fly. “
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