Capt TILMANN GABRIEL FRAeS looks at ongoing attempts made by the International Pilot Training Association (IPTA) to address the global shortage of pilots.

An office with a view? So why is it getting harder and harder to attract new pilots into the airline industry? (British Airways)

The International Pilot Training Association (IPTA) was formed in 2011, originally as a consortium by ICAO, IATA, the Royal Aeronautical Society and the major civil aircraft manufacturers. Initiated by the need to work in partnership on key issues of pilot performance and through-life training, the stakeholders came together to work critical subjects under a neutral Chairman, Peter Barrett, from the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Several working groups were formed, at the peak with over 200 industry experts in up to eight workstreams. Important outcomes were the proof of concept for the MPL, pilot competencies, UPRT training guidelines, Revision 4 to ICAO Doc 9625 ‘The Manual of Criteria for the Qualification of Flight Simulation Training Devices’, a helicopter manual for safer pilot training, and assuming responsibility for ICAO’s NGAP (Next Generation of Aviation Professionals) initiative for outreach to future pilots.


With a demand of 600,000 pilots in the next 20 years and an average cost of £100,000 per Air Transport Pilot License, there are not enough pilots produced per year to cover both retirement and the growth of the industry."

In 2016, the Consortium became an Association and, importantly, the original stakeholders were joined by the major pilot training organisations. IPTA is now working diligently on key developments in pilot recruitment, training and professional standards. The Executive Board, headed by Capt Tilmann Gabriel, with Capt Francois Lassale and key members from ICAO, IATA, Airbus and Boeing, meets monthly, and every other month the Workstream Chairmen – all of whom are Fellows of the Royal Aeronautical Society – report on progress. The IPTA Council meets twice per year to determine the future strategy and new projects. IPTA has achieved an important rapport with ICAO, the FAA and EASA with active experts from the industry, supporting the efficient rulemaking and creation of guidance for the industry.

Reaching out for pilots

Boeing forecast for the number of new pilots needed by 2035 (Boeing).

The Outreach, Recruitment and Retention Workstream is targeting the pilot demand and aims to find ways of funding the ab initio training of pilots. With a demand of 600,000 pilots in the next 20 years and an average cost of £100,000 per Air Transport Pilot License, there are not enough pilots produced per year to cover both retirement and the growth of the industry. Next, to the costs, there is a growing decline in the attractiveness of the pilot profession, as there are many other opportunities for young people. Women still represent only 7% of the pilot population. In China and India it is 13% but the interest of women in becoming pilots is likely still influenced by the myth that it is not a family-friendly job.

As most educations are free of charge, the young aviation industry has missed the establishment of the Profession ‘Airline Pilot’; the former Soviet Union was much more advanced in this respect. ICAO Annex 1 is regulating the vocational pilot licenses, with the new license regulations coming in 2019/20 governed by pilot Core Competencies and observable behaviours. This represents a true revolution in pilot training and will be the subject of the Royal Aeronautical Society International Flight Crew Training Conference on 25-26 September 2018. The work is being driven by ICAO, and this author, as a member of the ICAO task force, would have liked to go a step further and initiate a profession, coupled with a Bachelor degree. However, this needs to be the next step. The myth is prevalent that the pilot profession will be gone in 20, 30, 50 years, so who will be flying the aircraft from the ground and who will work on all the drone flight management? The pilot job will change, like so many other professions, but the tasks of flying aircraft safely will remain, coupled with many other management tasks. Where is the education for this future?

Paying the price

Where will the next generation of pilots come from. (Lufthansa)

One of the key initiatives of IPTA is to find funding mechanisms for training ab initio pilots. In the past, most major airlines had their own flight schools and funded their pilot cadets, usually coupled with a lower income in the starting years of the junior pilot. With our low-cost focus, almost all airlines have handed the training of pilots to approved training organisations (ATO), leaving the risk of getting a job in the airlines to the young pilot. The financing is left to the parents, the mortgage or other ways of indebtedness of each pilot. Obviously, this way of getting a pilot license is limited to young people with wealthier backgrounds. With an aircraft manufacturing industry which wants to sell $5trn worth of aircraft in the next 20 years (some 30,000 aircraft), the spectre of insufficient pilots has been recognised. IPTA is looking into establishing financing opportunities which give junior pilots from lower-income countries the opportunity to enter the pilot profession.

Next to financing pilot education, we need to find better working conditions for what was once a highly favoured profession, making it more attractive for women, but also for career changers of people aged 40+. Working as a pilot must be possible in line with the increasing retirement age.

Appealing to the new flyers

The pilot job market has changed today. 

In today’s global pilot job market, the career pilot has to manage his/her career. Gone are the days of one employer from cadet to retirement. The average pilot changes employers seven times during their career. This is the main restricter for young men and women who have close regional and family ties and don’t find it attractive to work around the world and adjust to a new employer culture every few years for career and greater salaries.

IPTA is accepting a key role in finding solutions, so far without compensating its experts for the important work which helps the aviation industry prosper. The Royal Aeronautical Society and its membership base are greatly supporting the activities and together we will continue to seek progress on the key issues that face the pilot training industry today and in the future.

International Pilot Training Association Conference

Human Performance in pilots - the next 40 years 

RAeS HQ, London, 24 April 2018.

It is over 40 years since the first NASA workshop where the phrase Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) was used. This extraordinary event is seen as the birth of what is now known as Human Performance. Subsequently, the aviation industry led the world, steadily advancing the understanding of HP, its limitations and consequences, most notably for pilots. Recently, however, other safety critical industries have adopted and expanded the collective knowledge of HP, some of them advancing beyond the aviation model. Additionally, aviation has evolved, with different threats and challenges. With forecast unprecedented growth, and a persistent core of accidents with HP causal factors, this conference addresses the need and the opportunities to progress HP in aviation with the goal of establishing a road-map for the next 40 years.


13 March 2018

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