As of the end of 2009, in the US, there were an estimated 594,285 pilots and that number is approximately the same today. This number has been declining gradually over the past several decades, down from a high of over 827,000 pilots in 1980; this represents a drop of more than 232,715 pilots in the last 29 years.
Our industry has a problem, and it impacts all aspects of aviation. As older pilots phase out of their careers in aviation, the pipe line to fill these diminishing numbers is lacking. No longer are there large numbers of pilots being generated by the military. Gone are the days when the military produced all the pilots the airlines could absorb.
“FAA forecasts that the number of student pilots nationwide will drop to a 10-year low of about 69,000 next year. That’s a 30 percent decrease in a decade. This is a problem for all of aviation and it will take all aspects of aviation to be a part of the solution.
Fewer pilots equate to less business for the industry, and it threatens the strong, sustainable aviation system our nation counts on.
General aviation is the pipeline for flight instructors as well as regional and commercial pilots. A smaller pool of qualified pilots could prevent airlines from expanding to new routes, and it could also mean lower training requirements.
Today’s youth are captured by video games and computers, losing the leadership skill obtained from real world challenges. Our industry competes with today’s tools of immediate gratification – the internet, videos, games, texting and tweeting… all the technologies that have made learning to fly less exciting and less appealing because of this uphill battle, we must make learning to fly and flying more “Accessible and more affordable.”