Why Now is the Best Time to Become an Airline Pilot

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If you’re looking for a guaranteed job in the travel industry, it might be time to get your pilot’s license. Both mid-sized and regional airlines in the U.S. are suffering from a well-publicized pilot shortage.

Patrick Smith, author of Cockpit Confidential and founder of AskthePilot.com explains that the shortage of pilots seems to be more with the regional, not the major, carriers. Some regional carriers have trimmed about five percent of their flights, including Republic Airways, which operates flights for Delta, United and American. Smith explains that regional carriers are those who operate smaller jets and turboprops. He writes that the pay in the regionals is an issue, especially compared to the costs of becoming a pilot.

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Another issue affecting all pilot hires is the fact that the number of hours required by first officers was dramatically increased from 250 to 1,500. This was done to boost safety, but instead it created a shortage because of the cost of earning those additional hours. The 1,500 hours is set to expire in the fall and there is interest in not renewing it, but there is also another guarantee that pilots will come back. Because of this, attendance at pilot schools is dropping as well.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office over the next 10 years, airlines will need up to 4,500 new pilots a year. Boeing (BA) also forecasts that more than a half million new commercial airline pilots will be needed over the next 20 years and that 609,000 new commercial aircraft maintenance workers will be required by 2034.

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There are many job opportunities in the industry, especially for women. According to the FAA, of over 600,000 active Airmen Certificates (licenses to fly a plane), only about 40,000, or about 6 percent, are women.  Of the active airline pilots in the U.S., an even smaller percentage are women.

Salary is also an issue. Pilots on major carriers often earn more than $200,000 a year, but the Air Line Pilots Association says that pilots at regional airlines is just a measly $22,500, Fortune Magazine reported in 2014. On the flip side it takes thousands of dollars to actually earn your license and earn your 1,500 hours.

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To become a pilot you first need a bachelor's degree in either aircraft operations, aviation, aeronautical engineering, or a related field. Once you receive your degree you will need to complete a couple of months of graining on the ground and then you get to fly, and fly and fly. As already mentioned, you need more than 1,500 hours of experience flying the friendly skies. You will need a commercial pilot's license and may need instrument rating certification or airline transport pilot certification. Instrument rating means that you have the ability to fly in low visibility conditions.  You can complete your flight training through an approved degree program or flying school.  If you want to see the world think about getting your pilot’s license and think about all the destinations you can see.

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