Boeing expects Australia, New Zealand and the nations of the South Pacific to require an additional 30,000 pilots and aviation professionals over the next two decades to meet the growing demand for air travel.
The manufacturer’s 2016-2035 Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook forecasts a need for 13,000 new pilots and 17,000 new maintenance engineers (technicians) in Oceania as airlines expand their networks and more passengers take to the skies, especially in the fast-growing low-cost carrier (LCC) segment.
The figures for Oceania, released on Wednesday, are up from 12,000 pilots and 13,000 technicians in the 2015-2034 pilot and technician outlook.
Boeing has published its pilot and maintenance engineer outlook for the past seven years. The forecast was guided by the manufacturer’s Current Market Outlook (CMO), which has forecast 39,620 new aircraft deliveries in the 20-year period between 2016-2035.
The figures from the Boeing reports showed Oceania was likely to account for seven per cent of all new aircraft deliveries over the coming two decades, while the region was expected to require five per cent of the world’s additional pilots.
Boeing Flight Services vice president Sherry Carbary said the discrepancy was explained by the growing presence of LCCs in the period ahead.
“The big driver in the Oceania region over the next 20 years is the low-cost carriers,” Carbary told reporters during a media briefing in Brisbane on Wednesday.
“You think about a low-cost carrier. It is a single-aisle airplane, uses less pilots than a widebody airplane.
“Today there is about 25 per cent of the Oceania market that is with the low-cost carriers. It is going to grow to over 40 per cent by the end of the 20-year period.”
Overall, the Asia Pacific region is expected to need about 248,000 new airline pilots and 268,000 new technicians over the next two decades, with China requiring the bulk of those jobs.
The estimates were up from 226,000 new pilots and 238,000 new technicians in Boeing’s 2015-2034 outlook.
Carbary said there was an “enormous need” for pilots and technicians, meaning those looking to work in the aviation sector were in for “exciting career opportunities”.
“When people talk about aviation and aerospace we are really excited because it is a long-term growth market and the need for resources is great so it is a great place to be,” Carbary said.
“We recognise that to attract a new generation of pilots and technicians, we need to inspire and train them in new ways and that’s why Boeing continues to work closely with airlines, regulators, flight schools and other industry groups to develop innovative training methods and courseware.”
Carbary noted it took two years to develop a “competent and confident” pilot, while it was four years to develop a qualified maintenance engineer that was type rated to work on a Boeing 737 NG.
Further, the strong demand in the Asia Pacific was currently being met by qualified pilots from outside the region, attracted by the relatively higher wages and conditions on offer.
Also, Asia Pacific airlines were sending pilots to overseas aviation schools in Australia, Europe, the United States and elsewhere to gain their qualifications while establishing locally-based flight schools as part of efforts to boost aviation training capacity to meet the expected demand.
“We are seeing a lot of poaching, a lot of airlines that are willing to pay more than the market to get the captains and get the first officers that they need,” Carbary said.
“So far it has been OK, the United States had a surplus of pilots, Europe had a surplus of pilots. The question is, when does that surplus extinguish itself and then what happens next?
“We are starting to see more and more flight schools with a focus on developing the pilots and technicians of the future and I think that supply and demand problem will solve itself.”
Boeing Flight Services is the teaching and training arm of the manufacturing giant. In this part of the world it has a Brisbane training campus in partnership with Virgin Australia that features five full flight simulators (two 737NGs, a 777-300ER, a 717 and an Embraer E190 sim).
Carbary said the daily work of aviation technicians and engineers had changed significantly in recent times, with a greater focus on software and computerisation on board new-generation aircraft such as Boeing’s own 787.
This should help attract more women to what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry.
“It is just a skill-set change,” Carbary said.
“You are not just turning a wrench, you’re actually having to use complex modelling to solve software problems on the airplane.”