Why now could be the perfect time to train to be a pilot

The suggestion that now is a good time to train to be a pilot may seem to be a little counter-intuitive. But even though the airline industry is going through its biggest ever crisis, it actually makes more sense than you might think

It is easy to understand why the current situation within the commercial aviation industry could put some people off training to become an airline pilot. The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the sector, don’t exactly sell the career as an attractive proposition right now.

There is uncertainty about how long it will take for the industry to recover to pre-Coronavirus levels but estimates from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) put this between 2022 and 2023.

What this means, however, is that there will continue to be a demand for pilots once the industry gets fully back on its feet. Flight training, by its very nature, takes a long time to complete because of the many steps that need to be done before someone can fly a commercial aircraft.

Lee Woodward, the co-founder of Gloucestershire-based flight school, Skyborne Airline Academy said a course, all told, typically takes around 70 weeks from start to finish.

Skyborne Airline Academy

“If you then think about the application process, the screening process you’re really looking at about two years from the point you embark on it, to point when you finish your ATPLs,” Woodward added.

With this timescale, it starts to make more sense as to why someone who wants to become an airline pilot should consider beginning the process now during this low period for the industry.

If an individual were to begin the application process now, they would likely be finished during 2022 – a time when the airline industry is predicted to be nearing the end of its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A constant battle many flights school face is keeping flight instructors, especially when the airline industry is booming. It can be common for some organisations to experience delays in training because of shortages of flight instructors. This will now not be the case as there will now be qualified instructors available to train cadets.

Aviation Image Network/Bailey
Photo: Aviation Image Network/Bailey

However, UK pilot union BALPA said in March that it recommended that would-be pilots delayed their training to give the industry a chance to recover, telling ABC News that those giving up paid work to commence a course should reconsider.

“When recruitment does start again, you should expect to be competing for fewer positions against a lot more candidates, many of whom will already have years of flying experience in the airline industry,” the union advised.

Despite this, it is likely that by the time new cadets finish training, some industry analysts say there could be an even more acute shortage of qualified pilots coming out the other end of the pandemic.