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Why is There a Shortage of Helicopter Pilots?

Posted: June 08, 2020 | Author: Jaidyn Crookston | Read Time: 4 minutes

Helicopter Pilot ShortageSomething you’ll likely hear as you look into becoming a helicopter pilot is that there is a shortage in the industry.

This is true, the helicopter industry is facing a giant pilot shortage in years to come. In fact, Boeing has estimated that by 2038 there will be a shortage of 61,000 helicopter pilots worldwide, according to the pilot outlook report released by Boeing.

While this number may not seem as huge as the estimated shortage of 743,000 airplane pilots, the percentage is actually higher for the helicopter industry than for the airline industry. This is because there are only about 15,000 current active helicopter pilots in the U.S. Nearly four times as many pilots will be needed by 2038 than there are working right now. That’s a huge number! Of course, the 61,000 pilots will be spread out around the world rather than just the U.S., but this is still a giant shortage of pilots.

There are four main reasons for the helicopter pilot shortage:
  1. Pilots are retiring
  2. More industries are using helicopters
  3. More jobs are becoming available
  4. Rotor pilots are moving to fixed wing

Pilots retiring helping cause shortage in helicopter pilots1. Pilots are retiring

Helicopters became popular during the Vietnam War. This means that the pilots from that era and the decades afterward are now retiring. There are currently more pilots retiring than there are entering the industry. This leads to more jobs being available with not enough pilots to fill them.

2. More industries are using helicopters

Helicopters are used in new industries every year. When helicopters were first invented there weren’t very many uses for them. Now, helicopters are used in almost every industry, including medical, entertainment, utility, corporate, and more. As new types of helicopter jobs are created, the amount of jobs available goes up and so does the shortage.

3. More jobs are becoming available

As more people retire from the industry, more jobs become available. And as more industries start using helicopters, more pilots are needed. There simply aren’t enough pilots to fill these openings.

4. Rotor pilots are moving to fixed wing

The helicopter industry isn’t the only one facing a shortage. In fact, the airplane industry is estimated to have a shortage of 743,000 pilots by 2038. To help with their own shortage, airline companies have recently been hiring helicopter pilots, training them in fixed wing, and getting them to switch careers. This hurts the helicopter industry but helps the airplane industry.

There are other reasons for the shortage as well, but these are the most recognizable ones.

How does this pilot shortage affect pilots entering the industry?

Affects of helicopter pilot shortageWhile this shortage is bad for the industry as a whole, it can be good for new pilots entering the industry or those who are already working as pilots. Because there’s such a high demand for pilots, there will be plenty of jobs available. If you’re an experienced, qualified helicopter pilot, then chances are that you’ll have a good job for years to come.

As more industries begin to use helicopters, you’ll also have more options when you choose what type of pilot job you want. If you have a strong interest in a field besides helicopters, then chances are you can find a pilot job of some capacity in that field. As the industry becomes shorter on pilots, required flight hours and qualifications may change, making it easier to get a high paying job sooner. It’s possible to make more money as a pilot in years to come because of the industry shortage.

What’s the solution?

An obvious solution to the pilot shortage is to train more pilots. The more pilots that are trained, the less impactful the shortage will be. This is a lot easier said than done. For just one person to be trained and qualified as a helicopter pilot takes a lot of time, money, and dedication from both the student and the flight school.

If you want to become a helicopter pilot, now is the perfect time. The industry needs pilots and will continue to need pilots for the foreseeable future. Once you’ve gone to flight school and gotten your certifications, you’ll be able to help with the industry shortage and work as a pilot.

If you have any questions about the pilot shortage or about becoming a helicopter pilot, contact Southern Utah University Aviation. You can start your flight training today with the top helicopter flight school in the country and become part of one of the best industries in the world.


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Do you dream of a career as a pilot? Are you fascinated with the prospect of flying for a living? Southern Utah University is a comprehensive regional university that provides a high quality education. Flight training at SUU will uniquely prepare you for a career flying aircraft anywhere in the world.

Tags: Aviation

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