THERE IS VERY GOOD NEWS for aspiring pilots. The pilot shortage is going to reach critical levels in the next few years, driving up pay and working conditions as airlines compete to attract and retain pilots.

Guy Leitch.

Facebook forum FlyAfrica has many senior and former pilots. A recent discussion is insightful:

“Airlink will potentially lose around 100 pilots to foreign airlines this year. SAA has lost 20% of the initial 87 pilots they restarted operations with. They say they need 37 pilots by the end of the year but none of those they retrenched will return as First Officers (FOs) with a R300,000bond and earning R900k a year flying right seat with their former FO’s due to the discriminatory race and gender based hiring and promotion criteria.“

Safair might be experiencing the same losses as Airlink. Cemair would most likely lose pilots to Airlink or Safair and overseas.

‘very good news for aspiring pilots’

“As an ex-SAA pilot, I can attest to the fact that almost every ex-SAA pilot who wants to continue flying commercially is now overseas flying for a foreign airline so that supply has mostly dried up. Some have hung up their wings and either retired or gone into other non-aviation careers or businesses.”

A global pilot shortage is anticipated to extend through at least 2032, with North America anticipated to feel the brunt of it as post-Covid demand exceeds new entrants.

As reported in this issue of FlightCom one of the more significant steps being taken to ameliorate the loss of experienced captains is that in the USA there retirement age for regional pilots has been pushed up to 67.

And it’s not just a shortage of pilots that is creating huge opportunities for new entrants. There has been a significant shortage of air traffic controllers, engineers and ground staff due to layoffs, redundancies and forced retirements.

Further, South African flight schools are desperately short of instructors as many are being hired with very low time by the airlines. Add to that the low number of students at flight schools and the situation looks dire.

Overseas packages are far more attractive than the local ones. The perennial question is– ‘Is the grass greener in the sandpit”’ – which means – is it better to emigrate and fly for one of the three Middle East airlines.

A poster writes: “I left SAA in 2008, started as an FO at Emirates earning a salary higher than I earned as a Training Captain at SAA.”

Since then, the gap between salaries and quality of life between SA and the rest of the world has just widened.

Add into the mix the very good reputation of South Africans abroad, and it is no wonder those who want/have to leave are finding that opportunities are plentiful.