The United States is facing a serious shortage of airline pilots, particularly at the regional airline levels, according to a report by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The FAA said that there were about 827,000 pilots in America in 1987. Over the past three decades, that number decreased by 30 percent, reports CNN.
During this period, there has been a tremendous increase in the demand for air travel, the report said. The International Air Transport Association predicts that, over the next 20 years, air travel will double.
Major US airlines were not yet directly experiencing the pilot shortage. But smaller regional airlines are experiencing this firsthand. Their schedules have been reduced and some, such as Republic, have been forced into bankruptcy as a result of inadequate staffing.
However, the industry has taken a few steps to address this problem. Regional airlines now offer much higher pay and even signing bonuses.
Meanwhile, the number of pilots supplied by the military has also dwindled. Much of this is due to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. In the 1980s, roughly two-thirds of airline pilots were former military officers. Recently, that percentage has dropped to less than one-third, CNN reported.
The Navy predicts a 10 percent pilot shortage in 2020, while the Air Force predicts its own 1,000-pilot shortage by 2022.
In 2009, the United States Congress had changed the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from 60 to 65. A 2016 report by Boeing shows that 42 percent of the pilots currently flying for major airlines in the US will reach their mandatory retirement age of 65 in the next 10 years.
Congress also changed the duty time rules in 2010 to mitigate pilot fatigue issues. This change meant that airlines had to increase their pilot staffing by five to eight percent to cover the schedule.