Why the World is Running Out of Pilots


This video was made possible by Brilliant. Learn with Brilliant for 20% off by being
one of the first 200 to sign up at Brilliant.org/Wendover. For the longest while airlines treated pilots
as a renewable resource. It was long considered one of the best jobs
one could have—to make good money flying around the world in comfort—but as aviation
has become more commonplace the job of pilot has too become more and more just like any
other job. While in the 50s the job garnered the same
respect and pay as a doctor, entering the industry today earns you not much more than
you’d make at a fast food restaurant. Before a pilot can even perform their first
take-off with passengers in the back they have to get licensed. Most top airline jobs require or strongly
favor those with a college diploma so for those that want to go all the way in the field
they have to start by getting a degree. The cost of that averages $133,000 in the
US and then every aspiring commercial pilot first needs to get a private pilots license
which requires 35 hours of flight-time. These first bits of flight time, which are
with an instructor, typically cost about $140 an hour or $4,900 total. You also have to take classes which have their
own fees so getting a private pilots license usually costs about $8,000 all in. To start actually making money as a pilot,
though, you need 15 additional hours of instruction for an instrument rating costing $900 and
an additional 215 hours of flight time costing $23,500. There are also tons of other smaller costs
for books and housing and transportation and other things which bring the total cost of
pilots training to at least $80,000. Having done all that, having spent $213,000
on education so far, one finally receives a commercial pilots license but still, at
that point, one can’t work for most airlines. To get an Airline Transport Pilot License,
the one needed to work for large commercial airlines by the likes of Delta or KLM or Cathay
Pacific, one needs, with some exceptions, 1,500 flight hours. That would cost an additional $136,000 in
rental fees alone if one were to pay for the flight time themselves so pilots normally
let someone else pay for it by working at a job that doesn’t require a full ATP license. The most common job used to get from 250 to
1500 hours is as a flight instructor but some also work flying skydiving planes, towing
banners, or for airlines flying small single-engine planes. Once that’s all done, after having been
in education continuously for a quarter of ones life until the age of 23 and having spent
hundreds of thousands of dollars one can finally start flying commercial passenger planes and
earning $30,000 a year. That’s a typical and even fair starting
salary for a first year first officer and, considering these individuals often have tens
or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, young pilots are often in a tough financial
situation. Most Americans pilots start their commercial
careers at regional airlines. The largest of these is SkyWest airlines which
is an airline that flies for other airlines. You could be flying any of the three major
American airlines—Delta, United, or American—and actually be on a Skywest operated flight. Skywest, along with other regional airlines,
operate all planes for these US airlines with under 76 seats. They fly the smallest planes which are actually
more expensive on a per passenger basis to operate than the larger planes. The regional airlines’ primary purpose is
to lower cost. The aviation industry is heavily unionized
so the major airlines would never be allowed to bring in pilots at a yearly salary of twenty
or thirty thousand dollars. Therefore, they contract these regional carriers
to operate the small expensive planes so the crew can be employed at a different pay-scale
even if the flights are branded as United or Delta or American. While a first year first officer for American
Airlines makes $88 per flight hour, a first year first officer for SkyWest only makes
$37. Pilots are only allowed to fly 900 hours per
calendar year in the US which works out to 75 hours per month or about 17 hours per week. Now, the idea of a 17 hour workweek probably
sounds great but these are only the hours in command of an airborne aircraft. They don’t account for the time it takes
to get to the airport, clear security, brief for the flight, inspect and prep the aircraft,
board passengers, deplane passengers, pack up, file paperwork, and get home or to a hotel. Pilots are primarily paid based on hours in
the air which is why you tend to see the more senior pilots flying the longer routes. A typical four-day trip for a regional pilot
in the US might see them flying on Monday from Minneapolis to Fargo, Fargo to Minneapolis,
Minneapolis to Pittsburgh, then Pittsburgh to Boston where they would stay overnight. The next day, Tuesday, they would fly from
Boston to Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh to Boston, and Boston to Nashville. After an overnight they would fly Nashville
to Boston, Boston to Jacksonville, and Jacksonville to Boston. Finally, on Thursday, they would fly from
Boston to Norfolk and then Norfolk to Minneapolis. Over that four day, twelve leg trip they would
be in the air for just over 19 hours. That regional pilot would have been almost
constantly either working, sleeping, or eating. Compare that to a long-haul pilot flying an
a330. They would leave Atlanta on a Monday night,
fly to Amsterdam arriving Tuesday morning, and fly back Thursday after having had a full
48 hours free in Amsterdam. On that trip the pilot would have accumulated
16 flight hours—not all that different from the hours that the regional pilot gained after
working constantly for four days. It’s no wonder why the most senior pilots,
who have the seniority to decide which type of plane and routes they fly, almost always
go for the long-haul routes. Meanwhile, while the young pilots don’t
get paid much and work tougher schedules, the advantage for them of working for these
regional airlines is that they can gain the experience and hours needed to get a job at
a more desirable airline. The problem that the airline industry if facing
is that not enough people are willing to put themselves through all the years of expensive
training, low pay, and long hours to get to the stage where they make good money and fly
the most interesting routes. There is a shortage of pilots but it’s hard
to know how bad this shortage is—some say it’s a myth, others will say it’s already
chronic—but by one estimate the US alone will have 1,600 pilot jobs unfilled by 2020. While the problem is only predicted to get
worse, the shortage of pilots is already having consequences. Emirates Airlines denies having any pilot
shortage but the reality is that in April 2018 they flew 36 777’s and 10 a380’s
over to Dubai World Central Airport, a less busy airport than the main Dubai airport,
and left those airplanes there on the ground for months because there just weren’t enough
pilots to fly them. The concerning thing is, Emirates pilots are
some of the best paid in the industry. Even young Emirates pilots make more than
$200,000 a year and, thanks to local laws, that’s tax-free income. Emirates has come under criticism for long
work hours, insufficient rest periods, and minimal pilot staffing for their longest haul
flights which is likely a contributing factor to their difficulty in attracting pilots but,
if they’re having trouble recruiting pilots while paying so much that’s not a great
sign for the industry. These high salaries from some airlines are
also a contributing factor to the shortage in the US and Europe, though. The UAE is a small country with two massive
airlines so they rely on recruiting foreign pilots. China, while not a small country, also doesn’t
have enough local pilots to staff their tremendously fast growing airline industry. The country’s airlines therefore pay a starting
salary of $312,000 per year to foreign pilots and some make up to $500,000. While working conditions are tough, it’s
still no wonder why 10% of all pilots in China are now foreigners. With more and more pilots heading overseas
to the best paying pilot jobs the US, Europe, and other western countries are left with
fewer and fewer people to fly their planes. The short-term solution for airlines in the
US has been to fast track pilots through the early phase of their careers flying small
jets for low pay and get more pilots flying the larger planes earlier. That leaves the brunt of the impact of this
shortage on small towns served by these small planes. US airlines especially, thanks to the country’s
vastness, operate with route networks emphasizing service to small airports. Rather amazingly, there are 553 airports in
the US with commercial service. United is perhaps the most focused among the
big three US airlines on small town service with 235 domestic destinations but, due to
the lack of pilots, it’s having to cancel routes. In September 2018 alone the airline stopped
service from Chicago to Willard, Illinois, Mobile, Alabama, and Manchester, New Hampshire
even though these routes were likely profitable. United isn’t alone in this. Horizon Air, the subsidiary operating Alaska
Airlines’ regional flights, had to cancel thousands of flights in 2017 due to a severe
lack of pilots. There are a couple of possible solutions to
this crisis. The most obvious one is to increase pay and
to improve working conditions but, from the airlines’ perspectives, that’s the last-ditch
solution as they focus on their bottom lines. While it’s tough to sympathize with these
billion dollar businesses losing some money as a result of paying a more livable wage,
the reality is that if they’re having to pay more for the pilots to serve small towns
it’s going to cost more to fly to small towns and those living in small towns are
often the ones least able to pay. Another commonly proposed solution is to attract
more women pilots. Only 6.7% of the world’s pilots are female
and so, by putting more effort into recruiting that half of the population airlines could
potentially increase pilot numbers without increasing pay. More and more airlines, such as Lufthansa
and Emirates, are also operating up their own flights schools where cadets can train
for reduced rates or for free as long as they end up working at the airline. Airlines are also working to reduce the number
of pilots needed. Emirates, for example, reduced the number
of pilots it uses on some of its longest flights. On the 13 hour flight from Dubai to Sydney,
for example, they now only staff three pilots instead of four which means that each only
gets four hours of inflight rest instead of six. Finally, one of the more controversial proposals
to fix this issue has been to increase automation in the cockpit to the point where only one
or possibly zero pilots are needed to fly. This proposal has met criticism from pilots,
cabin crew, and the public alike as many opponents point out that the cockpit is already highly
automated and the pilot’s main role is to troubleshoot if things go wrong. Nonetheless, with captains of wide-body planes
earning more than $300 per flight hour the cost of crewing the cockpit can be as much
as $19,000 each way on the longest flights like San Francisco to Singapore so there’s
certainly financial pressure on airlines to cut down the need for pilots if they can. There are thousands of people who become pilots
each year but there are millions more who want to become pilots. To bring more people into the industry all
airlines need to do is to lower the extraordinarily high barrier to entry since as the industry
grows worldwide, the allure of the skies won’t be enough to get enough pilots into the cockpit. If you want to become a pilot two of the major
things you absolutely need to have a solid grasp of are math and physics. Brilliant is a great place to learn those
two subjects since their courses break down concepts into their intuitive principles and
build them back up so you don’t just memorize how do something, you understand it. They also have plenty of other courses on
super interesting subjects like logic, probability, astronomy, machine learning, and more. They really put a lot of work into perfecting
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link, you will also get 20% off when you upgrade to premium and you’ll be helping to support
Wendover Productions.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. Hey all, a few people have had some questions about the break-down of costs for a ATP License at the beginning of this video so I thought I’d try to clear things up and show a few sources for the different components.

    College Cost: I misplaced the original source that lines up exactly with $133k but this statistic is about the same accounting for yearly growth.
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/238112/university-attendance-costs-in-the-united-states/

    Private Pilots License: I said $8,000 in the video based off a source’s estimate. Looking at a random selection of flight schools’ estimates it could be even a little higher. Many have also pointed out that the vast majority of individuals can only apply with 40 hours flight time (a small minority of US pilots are trained under Title 14 of federal code part 141 which allow them to apply with 35 hours.) While I was choosing to use the lowest numbers for training as to not sensationalize the cost numbers (it’s sensational enough as it is) I probably should have done the math for 40 hours (maybe even more as many need more hours to gain the skills needed) to get a more average estimate.
    $9,950: https://www.illinoisaviation.com/flight-training/private-pilot-141/
    $8,123: http://www.stcharlesflyingservice.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/CostEstimateToAdvance.pdf
    $7944: http://www.flyhafc.com
    $9500: https://www.executiveflighttraining.com/Private_Pilot_License.html

    Instrument Rating: The way I presented this bit was definitely confusing. The $900 I mentioned was accounting for the ground training and then I wrapped the hours needed for an instrument rating into the additional hours needed for a commercial pilots license (215/210.)

    Commercial Pilots License: From the comments I’ve read nobody really disagrees with the estimate I put for the overall CPL cost but here’s the source I used anyways.
    $80,000: https://www.l3airlineacademy.com/us-career-programs/pilot-training-cost

  2. Wow so the only reason pilots don’t get paid less is because they have to force the airlines to pay a crappy wage? Dude a pilot shouldn’t be making anywhere near the same as a taxi driver even if they are just starting off. The skill it takes to get to that job is obviously worth more than that. Tbh if your pay in 5 years can’t add up to how much it cost you to get that job then you’re getting ripped off and either the school or the employer needs to be beaten until either a valid and ethical reason is presented or until your value isn’t that if someone with nothing more than regular skills that cost then $20. That’s just BS

  3. I’m pretty sure that when the world is in MAJOR need of pilots, they will start teaching aviation as a subject in school like math and science

  4. Passenger planes may not fully automate but FedEx and UPS have got to be looking seriously at this. If they are allowed to fly by wire 100% it could take a lot of pressure off the pilot shortage.

  5. actually that’s not true pilots get paid 500k a year about 10 times more then an average person plus there are tons of people getting educated for being a pilot

  6. from the info ive gathered from all kind of sources at this point, it seems as the US is the worst land for pilots

    sorry bois but eu be better

  7. Very glad I’m going for an airline mechanic, I was diagnosed with a heart condition at 19. If I were going for pilot I’d be out on medical already

  8. Part of the problem is over regulation by the government. It shouldn't cost 20,000 to have an engine re-built. I talked to a A&P tech. He said the huge cost is in liability protection. Turbine engines cost 200,000 to rebuild every roughly two years. The cost of maintaining aircraft and compliance with federal regulations is ridiculously high which translates to high training costs., because you have to pay for the use of the aircraft. That's also why the pay and amount of airlines has steadily declined since the fifties. Larger airlines (corporations) can afford the high cost of compliance with ever increasing federal regulations. As the smaller companies fold or get bought competition is reduced both for travelers and pilots. Capitalism also works for employees. The more employers competing for employees (pilots and flight crew) the better wages and conditions are. Also unions kill competition. With unions come standardized wages and working conditions. No employer can offer more to compete and sometimes only the larger companies can afford the union demands.

  9. Planes are heavy and outdated,.,. It's 2019 now so please hurry and build commercial drones!! I want to travel but I'll never set foot in one of those death machine chunks of metal.. you actually need speed to take off 😅😅😅.. That's some primitive shit right there 😅

  10. To any women reading this: I’m at an airline now and I’m LOVING it. Don’t be afraid to start training (ps: I’ve never even taken a physics class and I made it!)

  11. I've always found it shocking how little pilots are paid. We owe them better than this. If the airlines won't listen, action at a Federal level to force fair wages will eventually be needed (not that Congress ever does anything useful)

  12. , I will take a million a year, no matter how many hrs of only flight time, cause no other opperational time waste cause I don't bide to passport check ins,

  13. Lol imagine being Australian and paying a total of AU$170,000 for all the training requirements then starting your first year on at least $100,000 with Qantas, which is way better than your American airlines that just kick people off your planes

  14. dont let this shit discourage you some of this is bullshit my dad is a pilot for lufthansa and he told me it only cost him 130k-90k euros to go to the europe aviation training center after two years hes working for lufthansa dont listen to some guys on the internet go ask real pilots.

  15. there is no such place as "willard, IL". There is Willard airport in Champaign, IL (CMI) that is pretty much where you indicated, but not a Willard, IL.

  16. LOL. I like how you said one possible solution to this obvious problem was to attempt to attract women to this job lol. You don't understand women very well. There's a really good reason theres such a low number of female pilots. If men arent willing to put up with the bullshit required to do it, women damn sure wont. Because they cant.

  17. Instead of single-pilot you can put an under-qualified individual in the first officers seat. Commercial pilot license but not yet ATP. And those who have to work for the regional airlines to get their hours — 1500 hours total flight time, 1000 of the hours hours fixed wining turboprop or turbofan, 50 of the hours multi-engine, 250 of the hours PIC time (captain's chair, which could be in simulator).

  18. Load of dribble..gotta crawl before you walk…IF you really want to make aviation as a career you WILL forego MONEY..after all your true love is the big blue…Maths/Physics…helps…but my friend was a English teacher…senior check captain for a airline never crashed in the jet age..Again fly for love not money as this guy is only about money.

  19. Some airlines do the learning process for free as long as you fly for them a set amount of years, these company’s are smart because they now that the pilots are them most important aspect of an airline and while last the longest

  20. Wait wait. Did this guy just say (paraphrasing) "Hire more women pilots so they don't have to increase pay"…What are you trying to say by that?

  21. What about lowering the cost of a private pilot license to start, I'm sure there's ways of doing this. Probably not any good ways though.

    Regardless of cost I still want to get my PPL and maybe even a career with an airline.

  22. This is par for the course in the cyclical airline industry. In the 80's I worked in Avionics and training at American Flyers KFXE now in KPMP last I saw while pursuing a career as a pilot, what changed my mind was the industry was actually laying off pilots and airlines were shutting down like Pan Am, Eastern, National Airlines to name a few, now I think it is mostly greed with the airlines not offering meals on flights, baggage fees, deceptive pricing, it went from a pleasure to a nightmare over the past 20 years and now they want to target women pilots for lower pay WTF happened to equal pay with profits reaching record highs. If you want to be a pilot join the military. Pilot-less flights after what happened with Boeing 737 Max 2 plane crashes and killing 350 with pilots how many would it be without pilots? Companies are looking too much into automation of cars, planes, ships, etc. the Navy is replacing ship board touch screen tech for mechanical after multiple collisions at sea with merchant ships. There is always a latency problem with digital just compare a TV channel change between digital and analog.

  23. With airline salaries are very complex and I’m not sure this video gives great insight. This is accurate maybe after 2008 and the financial crisis but modern day budget airline pilots see starting salaries of around 65k a year. But another amazing video nonetheless

  24. Pay a ‘living wage’, pffft. Communist bullshit destroys everything it touches.

    Correct answer is not pandering to leftwing cliches, it’ allowing the free market solve this problem.

  25. British Airways is fast-tracking new pilots into the cabins of A320's with senior pilots so they can get their flight hours. This has been going on for several years.

  26. Haha, the number in this video is when you did everything right and minimum of training and exam. In reality, it is very hard to complete in that short amount of time. I am currently in school for the full course to be a Airline pilot with a Aeronautical University and it would cost me about $200,000! This is half a cost of some other well know school! This wouldn't include foods, living expenses, commuting..etc and when all is done in a flight University, we go get train at a ATP facility. And then work for a airline which can be about 35k-50k a years.

  27. Is the entire industry being arrogant? ignorant? as a guy who's looking to get into the industry this seems extremely repelling
    The entry cost alone is enough to make me think twice

  28. For some companies you aren’t paid on air time so it’s smart to have shorter flights so u don’t get jet lagged

  29. You live on the road and the pay is shitty, if you have a family your spouse has to be a stay home wife or husband so you as a pilot have to make enough to support the entire family and have enough home time with them.
    They need to make more money soon plain and simple.

  30. Would be a pilot but way too expensive probably will do the 14 years minimum service required for the RAF then go and get a commercial pilot license that way I get free training plus can serve my country 🇬🇧🇬🇧🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

  31. Being a pilot was my dream since childhood till 20s, but Im stateless and genetically diseased. Im 32 years and I wish I get over it, but flying still chasing me on a daily basis, its mot like before but still there is passion for it. I learnt a lot about flying, I know what inside cockpits and know like 70% to 80% about flying procedure. I know I will never be a pilot.

  32. Have a tough selection and pay for all their training… stop being a cheap-skate. Does the airforce expect pilots to pay 100,000's… No! Otherwise they'd have zero pilots. Just have an agreement… say, 10-20 year exclusive work from the pilot, unless the airline goes bust or lets them go.

  33. Firstly, i feel the education bit is wrong. U dont need a university degree to become a pilot, u can go straight to flight school. Secondly, if you want to fly commercial aricrafts, which this video is based on, there is absoloutely no need to get a ppl (private pilots licence). Im only 1:45 min into the vid and im picking out mistakes cmon man

  34. just make virtual simulation of flying then they can crash as many times as they want… And then have a exam based on that virtual simulation then have a instructor for a shorter amount of time. Then make it to where pilots can fly planes without being inside the plane and then some pilots might be able to manage more then 1 plane, With a complex autopilot system. Just encase…. Huge risk with last statement but first one what does one have to lose…

  35. The best thing aspiring pilots probably could do is go to the Air Force and start there cause after you get out they give you retirement and airlines are begging for you to work for them

  36. A fixed-wing pilots license is so much cheaper than rotary-wing… Things could be made more affordable by reducing unnecessary regulations that drive up costs.

  37. It's only a matter of time before pilots get replaced by artificial intelligence and deep learning(they can test this tech in a sand box)

  38. It’s simple no one wants to pay for college then pay for training that is basically paying for a second college and then only earn minimum wage for the next couple years

  39. In America it’s near impossible to be a pilot unless you somehow manage to be a military aviator or your parents have deep enough pockets to shell out the tremendous amount of money you need to get yourself through flight school. If you go through the private sector each flight lesson will be running you around around ~$260. ~$100-$160/hr for plane rental and ~$60/hr flight instructor. Actual Flight schools want over $100k+. You’ll be coming out with almost as much debt at a Medical school Student! For starting off pay of $40-50k at a regional! To top it all off you need 1500 flight hours to be underplayed and overworked….with a regional…

  40. Most Private Pilot applicants get their license at around perhaps 55-70 hours. Almost no one is ready to take the checkride at the minimum required hours.

  41. In Indonesia it's the other way around, pilot here is paid around 10X the minimum wage for an entry level and 20X the minimum wage for a senior pilot. As a result, we now have a lot of unemployed entry level pilots and our pilot schools are closing down entry.

  42. Welp, I'm 24 going on 25 and have a college degree, will solo for my PPL soon and want to fly for a living. Doesn't matter how or what, but airlines would be ideal. Should I go military or find another way? The only problem is that I'm working as an expat right now.

  43. Expensive, highly difficult, skill based, low pay, but I still love what I do. I don’t see myself doing anything else.

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