Paul Wynns, co-founder and CEO of Flex Air

With multiple COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon and the air transportation industry poised for recovery, attention will soon turn once again to the enduring pilot shortage.

No government aid program or temporary furlough has stopped the flow of time, and with it, the growing tide of airline pilot retirements. With almost half of the Air Transport Pilot population facing mandatory retirement age within the next decade, thousands of airline captains and first officers will depart the airline industry each year for years to come.

Two notable U.S. regional carriers, Compass and Trans States Airlines, provide a cautionary tale. Both failed recently, beset by shortages in their workforces of Captains and First Officers, with Covid-19 striking a final blow in the early spring of 2020.

Pilot staffing remains an Achilles heel for the entire industry.

Nothing will fill the widening gap between enrollments and recovering airline demand except for a new generation of motivated students.

As air travel grew during the boom years prior to COVID-19, enrollments for new student pilots did not keep up with demand. In the years since 2010, airlines have flown 30% more passengers and miles overall, but student pilot enrollments have declined by 5%. The shortage is so acute that the COVID-19 crisis will only reduce long-term demand for pilots by 10% in the North American market. Demand for new pilots has not disappeared during COVID-19, only paused.

The aviation training industry is ill-prepared to keep pace with a returning surge in demand for new pilots. Overall student dropout rates have been as high as 80% in recent Flight Training Experience surveys conducted by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Yet the number, sophistication, and quality of training programs has increased by leaps and bounds in recent years.

What is holding back new pilots?

Clues emerge when one examines the economics of flight training. AOPA’s survey revealed that 78% of surveyed students express concerns about the financial risks of expensive training loans.

New students incur a minimum of $70,000 in training costs up front, with entry-level pay at small commuter airlines as low as $25,000 per year. The financial pressures on new pilots are immense.

More challenges loom for airlines hoping to recruit a diverse and inclusive pilot workforce.

The social upheavals of 2020 inspired the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals and many major airlines to focus on forging a new “aerospace industry as diverse as the people we serve.” In the U.S. Air Transport Pilot community, there is much to be done to close the diversity gap.

Caucasian males comprise over 98% of the U.S. ATP workforce, and the economic challenges of flight training are pushing the needles in the wrong direction.

Flight training is unaffordable for all but a very few prospective students. Minority and low-income pilots have been hit particularly hard, because they lack access to the co-signers and good credit ratings required by most private loan programs.

The student loan industry fails to adequately serve student pilots.

This is because most student pilots in the U.S. do not seek collegiate degrees, and so are ineligible for Federally funded student loans. Alternative funding sources, like the private loan market for flight training, have collapsed in 2020, with loan approval rates for new students hovering at less than 10%.

Flight school remains a wise choice for aspiring pilots, as the demographics of the aging ATP population driving a hiring boom that will last for decades. While entry-level salaries are low, most career paths see pay doubling in the first five years of service.

It makes good sense for students to invest in their future by financing their training. But “business as usual” in the aviation industry threatens to exclude an entire generation of minorities and low-income students from the vibrant economic opportunities aviation has to offer. More loans and other types of financing are required in order to support tomorrow’s first officers and captains.

Every skilled and dedicated student pilot will be needed, regardless of their access to co-signers, credit, or collateral. Fortunately, change is on the horizon, offering new ways for student pilots to finance their airline careers.

Making flight schools more affordable to minorities

Income Share Agreements (ISAs) have emerged as a promising alternative to student loans for many students.

Income Share Agreements are an education financing model widely adopted by universities and vocational schools outside of aviation. With an income share agreement, the student agrees to repay a fraction of their pre-tax income over a set contract period.

The student is only obligated to pay if their income is above a certain level. And once the student’s aggregate payments over the life of the ISA have reached a fixed payment cap, they are released from the contract.

“The new normal” after Covid-19 will see many changes as the airline industry returns to record-setting growth in a disrupted labor market where the supply of new pilots will be more uncertain than before. Financial barriers to entry will exclude an entire generation of pilots unless the training industry adapts to make flight schools more affordable to minorities.

Income Share Agreements offer a promising way forward, but flight schools will need to change their mindset and provide more than just training. To the next generation of students, a logbook and ratings are just the beginning. They are looking for, and deserve, a satisfying career with financial stability.

Flight schools with quality cadet programs, good job placement, and excellent alumni relations will likely prosper under an ISA model. This is because student and school interests are aligned under an ISA contract: If the pilot doesn’t succeed, the school and its financial provider won’t get paid. 

Flight schools that can deliver a total career package to hard-working students will have a competitive advantage.

Paul Wynns, co-founder and CEO of Flex Air

Paul Wynns is a retired naval aviator and former military flight instructor. He has led teams and organizations in cultures and environments ranging from military to startup to the world’s largest aerospace company. His experience in aerospace includes combat flight operations, aviation maintenance programs, and new product prototyping. He is currently enrolled as a Ph.D. student at the University of California, San Diego Rady School of Management, where he is researching social impact investing solutions to solve workforce diversity challenges in aviation. Paul is co-founder and CEO of Flex Air, a flight school for the next generation of commercial pilots. 

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Aquayemi Akinsanya shared a photo. yesterday

Instagram live not to be missed. February 28th at 19:30 GMT  to discuss about The Claudes SEN Law | Reform In UK Education System.

#TheClaudesSENLaw
...
Show more

 ‘Young people are in danger of giving up on their futures and on themselves’

New @princestrust survey finds 1 in 4 young people feel ‘unable to...
Show more

The figures are from a survey of 2,000 16 to 25 year olds, the first of its kind, conducted by the polling and research consultancy Comres on behalf... Show more

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page