Sec. Chao and ALPA have some ideas about pilot shortage—MORE is needed

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ALPA Unveils Plan to Keep Pilot Supply Strong, Air Travel Safe, and Rural Passengers Flying

World’s Largest Pilot Union Details Policy Plan to Ensure Future Pilot Supply

Sec. Chao Symposium on Aviation Workforce and Pilots

Expensive Education lower cost– National ATP Academy like National Merchant Marine Academy


Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA’s president, sent a  letter to DoT Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, in which his organization” offered high-impact policy solutions to inspire young people to become airline pilots and provide air service to small and rural communities while maintaining the extraordinary level of aviation safety that U.S. passengers and shippers expect and demand.” The timing of the message was synchronized to the Secretary’s hosting of the 2018 Aviation Workforce Symposium on September 13 at Reagan National Airport. Why?

Only speculation—(i) pilot shortfall and the 1,500 hour minimum requirement for an SIC is a highly visible and contentious issue for ALPA and (ii) the list of outside speakers include nine aviation associations, six aviation university/schools representatives, five airlines and one union representative. The topics to be covered include priming the pipeline, pathways to proficiency and productive partnerships.










Captain Canoll’s letter reveals ALPA’s “clear and bold plan to address pilot supply includes key policy actions to

  • Make it easier for veterans to become pilots.
  • Encourage more women to become pilots.
  • Ensure more students can afford to become pilots.
  • Inspire the next generation to become pilots”.

He then highlighted his members’ activities in pursuit of this goal:

  • “Visiting 24 universities over the 2017-18 academic year.
  • Formalizing 11 collegiate professional development/mentoring programs.
  • Reaching more than 15,500 preK-12 students during the 2017-18 academic year at elementary, middle, and high schools and at community events and museums.
  • Attending events such as AirVenture at Oshkosh, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals Annual Convention, the National Gay Pilots Association Industry Expo, and the Women in Aviation International Conference.
  • Establishing a scholarship program for students who are active in ACE Clubs and enrolled in aviation degree programs.
  • Launching, with others in the aviation industry, Aviation Works 4 U, a one-stop shop for exploring a career in aviation.”

The ALPA Pilot Mentor Program and the Aviation Works 4 U initiative are aimed at attracting prospective pilots, particularly from non-traditional resources.

However, neither ALPA nor Sec. Chao appears to address what the GAO found in two studies (2014 and 2018) to be one of the most important problem: the cost of and the time needed to

Washington Post graphics







Original GAO data

Based on this thoroughly researched data, unless the educational expenses are reduced, the through put of pilots may not meet the demand.

The list of interesting ideas is long:


Students are being deterred by the education and experience requirements. Some options?

  • Subsidizing student loans by the government, the airlines or unions may be an effective means to reduce this economic barrier.
  • Tax credits to financial institutions to lower the cost of loans
  • Create an institution or designate an existing program to function like the US Merchant Marine Academy. Midshipmen attending the USMMA receive FREE full tuition, room and board, uniforms, and books! Graduates from Kings Point may choose chose to be a ship’s officer at sea, ashore in the maritime and intermodal transportation field, or as an active duty officer in one of the Armed Forces.[1]

This model should occur to the Secretary and her multimodal Department, which includes the USMMA. Graduates of the US Air Transport Pilot Academy might be a source of needed Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Navy pilots.

There are lots of existing creative programs and the ideas offered by Secretary Chao and ALPA may increase the number of pilots in the near future, but a bolder agenda addressing the costs is needed.

[1] five years in the United States maritime industry with eight years of service as an officer in any reserve unit of the armed forces. Or five years active duty in any of the nation’s armed forces.


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