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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."


Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pilot Shortage Continues...

What will we do?
Will there be a pilot shortage? This is the question of the month with Blogging in Formation Team. Visualize a vacuum. This will be the mainline airlines. Now watch them suck up those pilots from the commuter airlines when the time comes. The pilot shortage will be happening but at the entry level position and the commuters will suffer.


What will the commuters to do survive?

My thoughts are to pay the pilots what they are worth. They have passenger's lives in their hands and fly some of the most challenging routes with many legs. Then make the commuter a family friendly airline that supports pilot moms and dads.

Far too many women give up their careers because they can't make the schedules work while nursing their babies, or paying for childcare. What if a commuter became the family friendly airline? These women wouldn't leave because they could do it all!


Then there are airlines that own a commuter. Endeavor Air, formerly Pinnacle, Mesaba, and Colgan combined provide the "promise"... "guarantee"... not sure of the correct language... but the carrot on the end of this stick is they get to go to the mainline. Which is a huge incentive. Is it enough?

New-hire Endeavor pilots will be interviewed by mainline HR and in a few years will flow-up with no further interview. Of course a 4-year degree is the #1 requirement. 



This flow up will provide an incentive for pilots to go to Endeavor. But what about the Endeavor pilots who are already flying there? Word on the airways is they are not part of this promise. I'm wondering what the work environment will be when new pilots come on board, and the captain has been trying to get hired by the mainline to no avail, but the new pilots have a guarantee. Should be interesting times and great lessons in CRM.

A pilot flying for a commuter emailed me and said he wanted to go to Endeavor, but he was having a hard time leaving his $93 an hour captain position for $25 an hour. For non-pilots $25 might sound like a lot. But this is an hourly rate for flight hours, not time at work. Thus, a typical month of 70 hours would be a whopping $1750 per month.

Pilots... what would you do?

Would working for low wages with a guarantee to work for the best Airline in the industry be your choice of a commuter? Or if you found a commuter that supported your family with reasonable wages be a career you would stick with?


Commuter airlines are worried about how to attract and retain pilots. What is the answer?


Back to the question... 

Will there be a Pilot Shortage?

Tell me what you think about the commuter as a stepping stone... And then let's all go over to Cap'n Aux's post on the Pilot Shortage and join the great debate with your blogging in formation team!


Enjoy the Journey...
XO Karlene

Author of Flight For Control and Flight For Safety,
If you haven't read them...it's time!

22 comments:

  1. As someone who used to work at Pinnacle (Endeavor today), I'd just like to add some food for thought. The Endeavor to Delta program requires a newhire to upgrade and be a Captain for two years prior to entering a Delta class. The only known fleet plan for Endeavor is 81 CRJ-900s. When I left there were over 250 aircraft and 2,950 pilots. Today they have about 140 airplanes and 1,800 pilots. Attrition is through the roof because most pilots do not see a future other than the published 81 aircraft end-state that will require at most 950 pilots. Based on simple staffing numbers, a newhire will not be upgrading anytime soon to qualify for the program. Endeavor is having problems attracting newhire pilots because ATP rated 1,500 hr pilots are simply not showing up for a stagnant carrier that is currently downgrading 7-8th year Captains. I'd caution anyone thinking about Endeavor simply for the EtD program. You are correct on the statement that current Endeavor pilots are not eligible for the EtD.

    I'd recommend Compass Airlines as a far better option. They have Captains leaving due to a Delta flow that was grandfathered for anyone hired at Compass prior to Aug 2010. On top of that, they are receiving new EJets for the new American Airlines. Both of these provide for great advancement opportunities and better earning potential than Endeavor. If the hiring picks up to what it is rumored to be, a pilot won't need to worry about getting interviews at the legacy airlines. That time will come.

    As for commuter airlines finding and recruiting pilots, it is an increasingly difficult task now with the ATP/1500 hr rule. The wages must come up at the entry-level but therein lies the problem. The regionals exist because their business model depends on wages that are far below the legacy airlines. If pilots are not showing up, the wages need to increase. At some point you hit a breaking point where the costs of running a regional operation exceeds the benefit provided. Going forward I think we will see more regional mergers, some will outright disappear, and the landscape will change. Regionals of 1993-2007 will not be the same in five to ten years. A best guess would be the majors take-in that flying, and some cities lose frequency while some lose service.

    Pilot shortage? From a 1989 article that was in regards to pilot shortage:

    www.nytimes.com/1989/01/11/us/pilots-scarce-airlines-see-30-year-olds-as-captains.html

    "The reasons for the threat of a scarcity are numerous: the boom in the civil aviation industry; a soaring retirement rate among an aging corps of pilots, whom the Government requires to leave the job at 60; a decline in the number of new students taking up flying, partly a result of costs of basic training that have risen with liability insurance rates, and a lack of growth in the airlines' customary supply of aviators from the military, which has raised pay in an effort to remain more competitive with the carriers."

    Change Age 60 to 65 and you have the same exact situation today that was predicted in '89. Any and all factors can impact our profession nearly overnight. ISIS in Iraq/Syria, the price of oil, Middle East tensions, terrorist attacks, financial turmoil, stock market, another recession, etc. Will there be a pilot shortage at the regional level? Yes. But at the legacy airlines? No, due largely to past historical references and the cyclical nature of this business.

    I've read 'Flight for Control' and enjoyed it. I have to get 'Flight for Safety' but been lazy lately.

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    1. Thank you so much for the great comment! And the added information. I had not realized the stagnation at Endeavor. Sounds like they have some work to do over there. You're right... pay is the issue. Where are our union leaders on this?

      Thank you so much for reading Flight For Control. You need to get unlazy and pick up Flight For Safety. Then you can win this model! (Today's post... http://tinyurl.com/m8eowrj )

      Also... not sure where you are now in the career... but this is my plan for both books:

      http://karlenepetitt.blogspot.fr/2013/09/if-i-had-one-wish-for-aviation.html

      Thank you so much for your comment!

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    2. Thank you.

      I was lucky and am currently an A320/A319 FO for VX based in NYC. I promise I will buy Flight for Safety from Amazon. :)

      -M.A.

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    3. Awesome!! Thank you so much! And remember Flight For Control. It's the first in the series. :) Oh...and don't forget comments. If they move the 320 to Seattle in 5 years, I'll see if I can hold CA at that time.

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    4. I already bought and read Flight for Control from Amazon. That's why I'm looking forward to Flight for Safety. :)

      -M.A.

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    5. Yay! Thank you so much!!! Much, much appreciation. And don't forget about the contest... look at the bar under the top photo to win a 747 model! :)

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  2. What's Delta's fleet plan? They don't have one. Much like Delta, Endeavor expands and contracts their flying based on its ability to staff. The more pilots they bring in the door, the more planes they fly, the faster they can funnel CAs to mainline. EtD is a partnership between 9E and DAL, with a commitment to move pilots through who are career focused. The current SSP rates from Endeavor has about 75% success rate - 50% flow up to Delta, ~25% get invited back for another interview in a year. If a pilot wants to fly for Delta - and Karlene, you can attest to the quality of the airline - Endeavor is the best shot. Study, fly your best, and be ready when your number is called. That's the best shot of getting called up to the majors.

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    1. The mainline is expanding. Growing... tripling the number of flights in Seattle. We need pilots. If we can get them from E... great for the folks coming on there. I haven't kept tabs on the Endeavor routes, and plans.... but if you can get in now with so few pilots, and they expand... I'm seeing CA sooner than later and that trek to the mainline is doable fairly quickly. Yes... the best shot unless you are in the military. That's the best shot.
      Thank you for the comment!!

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  3. If you pay them, they will come.
    ...Otherwise, they'll go to China for good paying flying jobs.

    I talked to a Compass crew the other day. The FO was on her fourth regional airline! It's hard to make headway when the airlines are folded and merged like a shell game. Many pilots are forced by financial reality to simply give up, unable to continue as the star role in a continuing corporate game of "whack-a-mole."
    The regionals are complaining that even with 5 and 12 thousand dollare signing bonuses they can't attract candidates—while paying 30K per year. To them, I'd like to point out it's 2014, not 1980. What other professional would accept a starting wage so low? Lawyer? Medical professional? As of 2013 "The average starting salary for this year's accounting graduates is $53,300, up from $49,700, according to a separate NACE April 2013 Salary Survey."
    Corporate Management often justifies their own compensation as "what the market demands". Well, boys, these market forces don't only work in the executive suites. In light of the higher qualifications required—costs have just gone up, in your own words: "this is a permanent change."

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    1. Bill... this is the bottom line. They do need to pay them what they are worth. And one of the main frustrations with the current union regime... they're willing to take their dues but not willing to help fix the pay. It's going to be interesting in a few years to see what happens. The interesting thing is, I can buy a ticket to the East Coast from Seattle on a mainline airline for the same price I'm paying to fly 600 miles south of me on a commuter. So, those commuters are charging more per seat mile. I'm thinking the pilots should be paid what they are worth. Thanks so much for the comment!

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  4. I flew decrepit 737s for a 2 bit low cost carrier and earned so little I had to give up flying as it was no longer financially viable. Devastating at the time. But I now earn in one month 6x what I earned in an entire year with that shabby company. Flying commercially seemed like a great dream. The reality was quite disappointing. If everyone has my experience there certainly should be a shortage of pilots. But the over supply of naive pilots (as I was) will always feed a poorly regulated and globally exploitative industry. A shortage is unlikely. When I next fly it will be in my own private jet - in a few years yet, but well on my way. Grounded for now but much happier.

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    1. That's too bad you gave up flying....and a fault in the system. I know the top pay and schedule for those who hung in there... it's a great job. But that all depends on the airline too. Yet... if you love what you're doing and going to own your own jet... Awesome! Keep that jet in your vision and make it a reality. Maybe one day I can come fly for you! :)
      Thank you so much for the comment.

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  5. I would love to be the underpaid naïve pilot but airlines don't hire rotor trash. I learned to fly in a T-34, flew H-46s, and now I'm an EMS pilot flying a Bell 407. Most military helicopter pilots understand complex systems, have great ADM and CRM skills, and we have the mental capacity to fly anything. However, our helicopter time is usually not even counted but the experience and knowledge that we bring is so much more than the CFI from some civilian flight school. I recently earned my ME rating from a part 141 school and I was appalled at the unprofessionalism and lack of knowledge my instructors had. I can understand why airlines pay so little to new pilots because they are green. Instructors knew nothing of CRM, what a FMS was, and flight planning consisted of using GPS and iPads. The military is downsizing so why don't we tap into this pool of aviators, fixed and rotor, who have an abundance of bad experiences in the worst of conditions that our tax dollar paid for. I know of civilians who have double the amount of flight time that I do but I have ten times the amount of experience because I wasn't doing the same thing everyday with students. There are plenty of us out there to pick from but the airlines have to be willing to open the door. I'm 34 and trying to build my fixed wing multi time but it will be a hard pill to swallow making 25,000/year to provide for my family.

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    1. I think it's a shame they don't hire helicopter pilots. This is one of the short-sightedness of the industry. But HR are not pilots and they don't understand. Nor do some HR personnel see the the difference from the type of flying a person does.
      I think you might be able to bypass the 25K a year job. If you get the minimum time, have your 4-yr degree... I know an airline that will hire you for the military background with the lower end of the hour scale. And then we can fly together. Very odd on that 141..that appears all of them are only teaching the automation these days. Hang in there. Be positive. YOU will get there!!! And thank you so much for the comment. This will be addressed in the future! Count on it.

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  6. Karlene, I think your idea of being a family friendly airline might have some merit. I like hearing new ideas.

    Here is another one for your consideration. A recent forum thread discovered that there were indeed many ex airline pilots who are in different lines of work today who are qualified with ATP and 121 experience, but unwilling to return under current conditions. Many would consider coming back if pay and benefits increased.

    What about some type of bridge program to bring them back in the form of Part Time Pilots. These would be pilots who would fly 1 or 2 trips per month, maybe 4-5 days total per month. Afterwards, have no further obligation to the company.

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    1. I think the part time work would be a viable deal. This is the basic concept of job sharing. I actually wrote a paper on this concept during my MBA... will have to find that. The problem with this was the added training expense (triple in 5 days per month) as three times the number of pilots needed. Then lack of proficiency for not flying much.

      I actually looked at two pilots flying one line. I think it could be done, but then will pilots fly part time for low wages? I think the part time would be for women trying to manage families, and then as the kids grew they could merge to full time employees.

      I really like the way you are thinking. And something that could be a good deal for everyone. Thank you so much for the comment!

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    2. Regarding the training expense, I suppose a part time pilot would forgo the current signing bonuses. Case in point is Silver Airways who is paying new hire pilots $12,000 sign on bonus. Clearly there is logistics and union obstacles for sure, but whats better flights not flying or part time pilots. I do wonder if the powers that be sitting in the board rooms ever think of things like this.

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    3. Not sure. But the question is... who will those part time pilots be? If they are unwilling to fly full time for low wages, why part time? The only reason I could see is to manage a family and keep a hand in it. The problem is, and we've all seen it, many those pilots with businesses on the side are distracted with what's going on at home. This is an interesting thought... but employees are expensive. So each body is an expense. And if you only get a third productivity, and have three times training expenses for the same line of flying... there are definite obstacles. But... nothing that cannot be worked out if the demand is there.
      Thanks for the comment!

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  7. Yes, part time would allow one to keep a hand in aviation while continuing to work their other careers or businesses. Or, maybe its a bridge to allow pilots a year or two to move up the seniority lists while still making a decent income away from the airline.

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    1. Yes, this is GREAT for the pilot for sure. I know many pilots who left the airline on military leave and came back with better seniority. I agree...this would be awesome for the pilots. But the question is how will this be good for the airline? The expense would be added with minimal rewards on their part. Remember... when running an airline, money is first priority. :) Seriously, we need to find a way that the we can show a financial benefit to the airline and we can make it happen. That's the challenge. But as little Johny says, "I like the way you're thinking!"

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    2. Off the top of my head the benefits would be the airline is not parking airplanes due to lack of pilots which is happening now. Another benefit would be the reserve pilot system would not be utilized to 100% maxed out. Another benefit would be the airline would not have to pay the pilot a minimum guarantee, only for the hours worked. Same with benefits, doesn't need to be any for a part time worker.

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    3. That could be a benefit...maybe. Depends if they were making money. I like your idea, it's just not only would you have to triple the training costs...but you would need the simulators. My current company can barely keep up the minimal training let alone train more pilots. So you would have to train three pilots for one line of flying. I like the idea, just not sure if it's feasible.

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