The Coming Pilot Shortage: A Geographic Analysis of U.S. Flight Training Resources and Pilot Production

Authors: Thomas A Wikle*, Oklahoma State, Jonathan Comer*, Oklahoma State University
Topics: Transportation Geography, Applied Geography
Keywords: airlines, pilot shortage, aviation
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2010, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) substantially increased requirements for new airline first officers. Pilots previously eligible to serve as first officers with 300 flight hours must now acquire between 1000 and 1500 flight hours. With the rising cost of flight training and many airline pilots retiring over the next ten years, the U.S. airline industry faces a severe pilot shortage. At the same time it has become more difficult for civilians to obtain an airline position, fewer U.S. military pilots are moving into civilian aviation. Although U.S. flight schools have responded to the need for training more pilots, a large percentage of commercial pilot trainees are foreign nationals contracted to fly for non-U.S. airlines in countries such as China. Our research explores geographic dimensions of the U.S. pilot shortage by comparing resources necessary for flight training with the production of student pilots. Training resources used in our analysis included the number of certified flight instructors, the location of public use airports and flight schools, and the availability of single-engine aircraft used in flight training. Along with training resources, we consider other influences on pilot production such as weather and population characteristics. Looking beyond communities with FAA-designated Part 141 Flight Schools, a preliminary analysis revealed per capita concentrations of student pilots, single engine aircraft, and certified flight instructors in less populated, western states.

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