APATS 2013 brought an interesting set of presentations. In this series, we will summarize the most notable presentations from the perspective of the state of aviation training in Asia.

In the first installment, we review Capt. (ret.) John Bent’s (ICAO) presentation concerning the imminent pilot shortage: APATS 2013 Bangkok: The imminent Pilot shortage – Capt. (ret) John Bent – ICAO Capt. (ret) John Bent, gave a presentation on the imminent pilot shortages, especially in Asia. Although Capt. Bent clearly stated that projections are only projections and can be thwarted by unexpected events, his conclusions were enough to sound ‘a gentle wake-up call’.

Below a summary of the key points:

  • Major Airlines ‘at the top of the food chain’ don’t directly notice the imminent pilot shortage because they have a steady supply of pilots wanting to move ‘up’ from smaller airlines or low cost carriers. – This however is finite, and will not cover the projected pilot shortages.
  • ‘Lead time’, to train a new generation of pilots to fill the empty seats can be reduced from 15 years to around 5 years if selection is rigorous and MPL training streamlines the pilot supply to airlines.
  • A surge in retirements will take place in 2013-14 resulting in losses of up to 30% of pilots workforce.
  • Lowered interest in becoming a pilot, ‘the glamour is gone’ This effect is amplified by the huge cost of licencing for self-funded individual.
  • Retirement of ‘experienced pilots’ dilutes the experience of the remaining pilots.
  • 192,300 new pilots required in in Asia by 2033. (Source: Boeing 2013)
  • The effects of pilot shortage, and dilution of experience levels has obvious implications for flight safety.
  • Improvement and harmonisation of training standards globally can partially mitigate some of these effects and can be summarised below;
      • Improved and expanded pilot candidate selection
      • Improved pre-employment pilot training programs
      • ICAO recommendations in pilot training: Adding competency and Evidence based training.
      • Outreach initiatives: The aviation industry should undertake initiatives to encourage and enthuse the next generation of pilots by outreach programs.
  • IPTC: International Pilot Training Consortium; A newly developed cooperation between IATA, IFALP, ICAO and the Royal Aeronautical Society . The objective of the IPTC is to improve safety, quality and efficiency in commercial aviation world-wide., by developing international agreement on a common set of pilot training, instruction and evaluation standards and processes for the benefit of the industry worldwide and that will result in ICAO provisions.’ Download the PDF that describes the Goals and structure objectives of ICAO.
  • The most important goal for the IPTC is to encourage more global harmonization in pilot training standards.

Challenges to the training system stemming from the pilot shortage described by John Bent; We talked with many APATS delegates involved in Aviation training in Asia and discussed the financing of pilot training by self sponsored students, and by Airline sponsored schemes.

In many cases, pilot training is only available to candidates that have access to considerable resources. However, a large number of well-educated and talented potential pilots do not have such funds and could therefore miss out on the opportunity to fill the pilot shortage.

Some of these candidates will be lucky enough to secure a place on a sponsored scheme, but the extent of the pilot shortage is such that these schemes can only partially address the problem.

In Europe, financial systems have been developed that allow selected students to access required funds for pilot training. These systems rely upon pilot selection tests in which the financial institutions have confidence. We will write more about this later but many delegates agreed that wider adoption of such financial structures would provide a fiscal boost to training initiatives and help to address the pilot shortage more swiftly whilst maintaining the quality of training.