Philadelphia event aims to attract future pilots and help those who are already pilots find jobs
Chad Cumberland, 21, made his way to the Republic Airways booth where a sign read: ‘Captain Immediate Openings’.
The Mount Pocono-area resident doesn’t yet have enough flight hours for a major airline (he has 350), but he wants to do it one day.
“Right now it’s a big hiring boom,” said Cumberland, one of dozens to attend a pilot job fair in Center City on Saturday. “Hopefully it holds up when I get 1,500 hours. Anyway, I think they will still need pilots.
He is almost certainly right.
A shortage of pilots continues to threaten service across the country. Earlier this month, American Airlines announced it was dropping service to a number of cities due to pilot shortages.
“I’ve never seen anything so bad,” not even after 9/11, said Robert W. Mann Jr., chairman of RW Mann & Co., Inc., an independent transportation industry analyst. airline based on Long Island. “It’s like having a blizzard or a tornado every day for a period of two and a half years” in terms of disruption.
Shortage of pilots had been a growing problem for years before the pandemic, fueled by low wages and financial difficulties. But the situation worsened after the coronavirus shut down the service for a while, creating dire financial situations and a flood of retirements, experts say. The shortage has been particularly acute among regional carriers, like Republic, which are losing pilots to major airlines.
“We’re losing captains like crazy,” said Ryan Hollinsworth, a Republic pilot first officer who worked at a booth at the job fair. He said his airline, which has a base in Philadelphia, needs “as much as we can get.”
“We need people sitting down,” he said.
The free job fair, which brought together 13 regional and charter companies, was organized by Future & Active Pilot Advisors (FAPA), an aviation career advisory firm, aiming to encourage more people to become pilots and matching those with available jobs. It was aimed at pilots who already held a commercial license or more than 250 flight hours. To fly large transport aircraft, pilots need 1,500 hours. The event also included an afternoon information session for students and others interested in becoming pilots.
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The group has been organizing similar events across the country for years. It was last seen in Philadelphia in 2018. But its programs have become increasingly important given the pilot shortage.
“There were times when it was the icing on the cake,” Mann, the industry analyst, said. “Now it’s more fundamentally useful.”
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The problem is threefold, according to Tim Genc, chief adviser and editor of FAPA: there aren’t enough pilots entering the profession, too many pilots are leaving, and airlines are expanding, creating a increased need.
“Our needs are more based on our growth,” said Stevi Knighton, recruiter for Jet Edge International, a charter company that serves high-end customers and had a booth at the job fair. “We are actually the fastest growing [charter] company in the world. »
The demand for pilots is expected to grow even greater. In 2021, 5,426 pilots were hired by major airlines, Genc said, more in a year than ever before. This year, 6,681 have been hired, he said.
And over the next few years, 20 to 25 percent of pilots, or about 30,000, are expected to retire, Mann said. The mandatory retirement age in the United States for large commercial aircraft pilots is 65.
Airlines have offered large bonuses and pay raises to recruit and retain pilots, who must fly around 75 hours a month. The average salary for a first-year pilot on a major airline is around $85,000, Mann said. Successful veteran pilots with 20 or more years of experience can earn more than $300,000, he said. Regional carriers pay less, perhaps starting at $50,000 to $60,000, with those at the top earning around $130,000.
Those who attended the job fair were looking for different opportunities. Carlos Pineda, 42, originally from El Salvador, works for a small suburban airline and wants to move up.
“I’m ready to fly jet planes,” he said.
Amy Amorosia, 36, from Newtown, is more interested in a charter company, such as Nicholas Air, which was present at the fair.
“You can live wherever you want, and they seem family-oriented,” said Amorosia, who had been a flight attendant and then became a pilot.
At the fair with her were two other flight instructors who work for the same company in Medford, where they build their hours. She has nearly 800. Tyler Perry, 31, of Bordentown, and Pat Lewis, 30, of Mount Laurel, each have 350.
Perry said he, too, was interested in flying for a charter company. Lewis thought he wanted to work for one of the biggest airlines.
“Now I’m not so sure,” he said. “It seems like there are a lot of different opportunities.”