Aviation Shortages: In Search for Causes

According to recent reports, the aviation industry worldwide might need an additional two million cadres, namely, airline pilots, maintenance technicians, and cabin crew in the next twenty years. As the shortages are becoming more pronounced than ever, the question arises as to what factors contributed to their emergence. Workforce shortages in aviation might prove to be one of the most pressing problems in the world that are growing more interconnected. The topic is especially gaining momentum and becoming increasingly relevant as experts are predicting a looming crisis in all sectors of the industry. Thus, it is imperative to research the leading causes of this phenomenon to plan an appropriate course of action.

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This literature review aims to study the key concepts and theories regarding the issue under investigation. An excellent literature review helps to summarize the existing knowledge as well as identify possible gaps. An extensive literature search may ease the task of pinpointing a narrow research question if the general topic is too broad. In the case of the present study, shortages in aviation may be attributed to various tendencies. The literature review describes a few of them, therefore, laying a solid foundation for future research.

The present project draws on the existing theoretical framework and practical findings in the field. One of the key concepts that may prove relevant to the present study is that of workplace diversity. Over the last few decades, the US demographic landscape has been showing more racial and ethnic diversity than ever. At the same time, there has been tangible progress in women’s rights. As stated by Ison, Herron, and Weiland (2015), aviation has typically been a male-dominated field. However, according to the researchers, between 2004 and 2014, the share of women enrolled in aviation education had risen from 17% to 22%. An even more significant increase was observed in such demographic cohorts as Hispanic and Native American college-aged individuals (Ison, Herron, & Weiland, 2015). However, a more recent study by Turney (2018) draws a bleaker picture: as of now, only 22% of aviation cadres are women. Removing stigma and discrimination from the aviation field, making it a friendlier environment for minorities, might help to tackle the observed shortages.

Another compelling concept that may help to locate the contributing factors is green aviation. As stated by Higham et al. (2017), nowadays, airlines experience much pressure to invest in environmentally friendlier forms of air travel. The European Union might oblige local airlines to work on cutting greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of a 20% reduction by 2020 (Higham et al. 2017). Following the new guidelines may as well mean additional costs such as researching alternative fuels, implementing new technologies, and reinventing work processes.

For airline pilots, technicians, and cabin crew, this may prove to be a negative tendency as the need to ‘go greener’ implies investment routed away from recruitment. As of now, large amounts of money are squandered to cover rising oil expenses, which may also render the working environment volatile (Hari, Yaakob, & Binitha, 2015). What aggravates the situation, as emphasized by Abdullah, Chew, and Hamid (2016), is a great spike in air travel consumption. As air fees are becoming more affordable, more people than ever are deciding to travel by plane. Accommodating passengers often means an additional workload for airline pilots, which may be the last straw for some of them. In summation, exclusion of specific demographics from the industry, the pressure to turn to greener technologies, surging oil prices, and increased air travel consumption are contributing to impending shortages in aviation.


Abdullah, M. A., Chew, B. C., & Hamid, S. R. (2016). Benchmarking key success factors for the future green airline industry. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 224, 246-253.

Hari, T. K., Yaakob, Z., & Binitha, N. N. (2015). Aviation biofuel from renewable resources: Routes, opportunities and challenges. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 42, 1234-1244.

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Higham, J., Cohen, S. A., Cavaliere, C. T., Reis, A., & Finkler, W. (2016). Climate change, tourist air travel and radical emissions reduction. Journal of Cleaner Production, 111, 336-347.

Ison, D. C., Herron, R., & Weiland, L. (2016). Two decades of progress for minorities in aviation. Journal of Aviation Technology and Engineering, 6(1), 4.

Turney, M. A. (2018). Attracting women to aviation careers: What recent studies reveal. The Collegiate Aviation Review International, 18(1), 92-98.

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