The Air Current

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The second in a series focusing on Boeing’s road to developing its next all-new commercial airplane.

What happens if the world’s airlines can’t get enough pilots?

According to Boeing, 790,000 new aviators are needed over the next 20 years. That’s 108 newly trained pilots each day — one every 14 minutes. It’s an eye-catching figure. A 24% jump over its expectation from a year ago.

Boeing, for the first time, included business aviation and helicopter pilots in its 2018 forecast, the reason for the sharp rise. Commercial pilots accounted for 635,000 of those 790,000 new pilots.

As Boeing moves toward offering its New Middle-Market Airplane in the first quarter of 2019, the company has never tied a shortage of aviators to its case for the new jet. Yet, the fine print on Boeing’s annually-updated forecasts stand as an indirect, but foundational, signal about the assumptions within the business case for the NMA and its expectations about the small twin-aisle jet easing the future need for new pilots, according to an analysis by The Air Current.

Each of its first seven personnel forecasts since 2011 saw demand tick up again and again.2And increasing alarm over a potential shortage of aviators has accompanied each ever-larger aircraft forecast — but how much did 20-year demand grow for commercial pilots this year?

It didn’t. It declined.

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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