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The Future Aviation Workforce in the US


Many private and commercial aircraft are broadly utilized for daily travel via air. The efficiency and safety of airborne voyagers are enhanced by massive system facilities for the regulation of air traffic for secure departure and landing at their designated destinations. The successful operations in the aviation sector demand thousands of experienced specialists who ensure effective management of every flight while endeavoring safety. The airline labor force comprises numerous distinct components which play critical roles in the safe running of the sophisticated aviation transport network (Byers 6). With the rapid growth in demand for employees who are equipped with technological know-how from the diminishing pool of workforce market, the recruitment forecasts for aeronautics personnel pose novel concerns that necessitate innovative approaches.

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The Labor Market Pool

For at least five decades, there has been a rapid decline in birth rates which has highly negatively impacted the growth of the workforce. However, the labor arena has predominantly dominated by the baby boomers from the middle of 1960s (Byers 7). The baby boomers consist of the ex-military personnel, and currently, in the aviation sector constitute about 22% of the entire labor force in the United States (US) (Byers 7). The boomers are getting older, and, as their retirement ages lapse, there has been a minimal number of individuals joining the aviation labor arena. Nevertheless, the rapid economic growth of the state and embracing of digital technology has made the universal economic setting even more competitive, thereby aggravating the demand for trained employees. Consequently, there is a need for the majority of the population required by the air travel industry to be trained to curb the need for competent and skillful personnel. The emergent category of workforces will be obliged to have some professional knowledge, military or college education alongside specified aviation training to fit in the sector.

The Work Setting

The systems for national transportation via air encompasses three key sectors, namely airports, aircraft operation and the regulation of air traffic. Each division of the system in air conveyance is operated and governed by distinct bodies (Byers 7). The federal states operate the national skies and nearly all towers used in controlling air traffic. The operators of the aircraft lie in the private sector domain and encompass corporations, airlines and individual owners of aircraft. The airports are owned, run and operated by the regional, local and national political sections.

There are projections that the national system for air carriage will grow considerably. Notably, the upsurge in the number of the business jet plane will necessitate additional trip mechanics and crews. In spite of the execution of the automated next-generation technologies, the rise in plane operations will require increment in the number of traffic regulation professionals. The number of airline passengers is estimated to increase by at least 26% in the future (Byers 8). Subsequently, there will be an expansion of airports as well as construction of new airfields, thus, necessitating the recruitment of additional personnel to handle the upsurge in travel desires.

The Aviation Employees

Safety forms the basis of all the aviation infrastructures and calls for trust from all individuals who work within it. The system convolutions demand a highly-skilled, experienced and educated personnel. For instance, pilots are required to obtain and maintain permits and ratings. The controllers of the air traffic ought to be accredited and be acquainted with their section of functionality (Byers 8). It is a requisite for all the airport workers to comprehend and conform to the laid out broad set of requirements and guidelines to guarantee secure and safe airport environs. Generally, every individual in the critical segments of the aviation profession is required to have certifications, authorizations, experience and skills that cannot be straightforwardly acquired. In fact, the majority of the employers calls for a minimum of a college degree not lasting less than four years.


The airplane pilot is among the most noticeable professions in the aviation field. The pilots are easily visible in the majority of air terminals as they check-in through the entries and exits in their unique attires. Pilots are considered as exceptional specialists due to their expertise and ultimate obligation of ensuring flights are safe. Majority of the young individuals who show interest in aeronautics often desires to become pilots in the military or airlines. However, the extreme charges of aerospace training, living expenditures, and tuition pose a weighty financial affliction. A collegiate course in aviation is approximated to incur the trainee between $150K and $200K, while a degree program and acquisition of the mandatory aircraft ratings are projected to surpass this budget (Byers 8). A combination of higher tutelage and aeronautical training is usually undertaken for a period of at least four years.

In the preceding two decades, there has been low anticipation for a speedy return on investment. For instance, the ordinary yearly compensation ranges from $29K to $38K for a first officer on entry-level operating a local airplane turboprop (Byers 8). The concession is attaining the requisite flight hours and skills for progression to larger planes, elevation to captain. With the fundamental expertise, there is the possibility of securing a chance with one of the large mainline airborne haulers with a substantial increment in compensation. Nevertheless, a low-ranking pilot can expect to receive an average compensation of at least $214K (Byers 8). This is equivalent to that of captains in key airlines endowed with ten years of experience.

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Customarily, the regional air companies have acted as media of conveying pilots to the sizeable airlines. However, these companies have recently faced challenges in acquiring the pilots in the entry-level cadre. Additionally, the lucrativeness of the local air carriers has been hampered by markets consolidations, merging of airlines and high costs of operations. Noteworthy, with the increased number of retiring pilots at the age of sixty-five years, there is an upsurge of skilled pilots exiting the local airlines to fill the vacancies in the key air haulers.

Maintenance Specialists

The technicians obligated with the maintenance of the aircraft are equally essential to the safe functioning of the plane. A potential technician is required to have a comprehensive work experience practical not lasting less than eighteen months in either power plant or mainframe rating. To be approved for both designations, the specialist has to finish a certified program in aeronautical maintenance or demonstrable relevant experience of at least 30 months (Byers 9). Individual rating demands a minimum of 400 hours of universal coursework and 750 hours applicable to the power plant or airframe technology (Byers 9). In general, countless collegiate courses across the US offer a technical degree in the maintenance of airplanes.

The airlines frequently undertake recruitment of the maintenance specialists under the entry-level rank from the aeronautical programs they are accustomed to. However, other sectors like the automobile industry have staged a competition against the airlines after realizing the competence, potentials and skills bestowed in the graduates mentioned above (Byers 9). This is driven by the opinion that this group of professionals is conversant with the prevailing automation technology.

Air Traffic Regulators

There has been a steady demand for the controllers of the air traffic in the last three decades. Rebuilding and training the controllers of the air traffic system is time-consuming, and can take up to ten years to be an expert. It is a requisite for controllers to have definite personalities and demonstrate exceptional decision-making, analytical and organizational skills (Byers 9). Moreover, the controllers have to go through a thorough psychological and medical screening, and the presence of anomalies like traits of drug abuse can lead to automatic disqualification.

The trainees in this profession ought to meet some minimum requirements for recruitment. It is a prerequisite for them to be of utmost 31 years of age, and they have to pass the security and therapeutic tests (Byers 10). Additionally, the apprentices ought to have a combination of a bachelor’s grade and progressive work proficiency of at least three years, or a higher education certificate and relevant hands-on experience. It can take between eighteen to thirty-six months upon graduating for a fresh candidate to be operationally eligible for the position (Byers 10). There is a projection by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) that about 86% of the prevailing workforce of controllers will be lost in the ensuing ten years (Byers 10). The agency forecasts that enormous attrition will be attributed by the high number of the retiring controllers upon attaining their retirement age.

The Workforce in Airport Operations

In order to enhance the provision of services in the dynamic and multidimensional setting, the airports call for skilled and appropriately trained personnel. Just like the other categories of personnel, the most skilled employees in this field are gradually approaching the retirement age (Byers 10). The airports that house the operations of the air carter are required to satisfy a multifaceted series of functioning essentials to retain their accreditation. In spite of the FAA providing the oversight role in airports, the operators are required to ensure that all the users are provided with a secure and safe atmosphere.

The workers entrusted with the management of the terminal and airfield facilities ought to have undertaken substantial training in numerous activities for the effective and efficient running of operations. Such undertakings include gaining knowledge on firefighting, an inspection of runaways, rescue of aircraft, maintenance of pavements, snow removal, wildlife control, security, and other training on disaster preparedness. Remarkably, the entry-level positions in the airport operations are filled by collegiate aviation graduates undertaking management trainee programs. The apprentices who have done some courses in flight training and not pursuing a career in flying are also eligible for consideration.

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The Aviation Industry Response

The snowballing frequency of retirements among critical employees in every segment of the aviation industry has resulted in the challenge of drawing, employing, training and maintaining a labor force with the requisite expertise. However, the retirements provide prospects for career advancement as they result in vacant positions which necessitates promotion of the personnel or fresh recruitments to fill the vacuum. The table below applies basic metrics to directly link every aviation component with respective workforce classification (Byers 10). It illustrates the projected requirement of aviation personnel for the subsequent ten years.

The Aviation Industry Response

Outlook Evaluation

The forecasts are likely to be conservative in reference to the new airplane projections by the manufacturers. There is an expectation by the Airbus and Boing companies that in the coming twenty years, they will receive more orders to manufacture new planes. Airbus anticipates a demand of at least 1,900 new airliners to replace the aging fleet for the markets in North America. Conversely, Boeing projects a demand of about 2,600 regional jets and aircrafts for a similar period (Byers 10). However, the forecasts in the above table do not unequivocally provide for some of the confounding industrial dynamics. The factors include the rate at which the baby boomers leave the aeronautical sector, and the upsurge in challenges identifying the eligible, competent and interested applicant. Furthermore, there is stiff competition from the non-aeronautical industries as well as foreign welfares for the workers in the US with reduced qualification restrictions and better payment.

AB Initio Aeronautical Training

The air travel sector in the US is reacting to the dynamics in the field with new tactics. Majority of the transnational airlines have in recent times launched programs for AB Initio model of training to provide open aerospace training to the young generation. In return, the beneficiaries are supposed to dedicate their service to the airlines for a couple of years (Byers 11). The military of the US has employed this methodology for many years through the aviation cadet programs, ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps), and the military colleges.

Recently, the JetBlue airline started its AB Initio program for the flight where it enrolled a small number of entrants. Other companies are collaborating with the schools through the bridge programs that provide apprentices with assured interviews or equivalent incentive for engagements. Despite the programs serving the desires of the sponsoring companies, the enrollments usually do not satisfy the demands of the airline field in entirety.

Initiatives by the FAA

The FAA established the CTI (Collegiate Training Initiative), in partnership with trade and aviation schools to facilitate the preparation of the graduates for aerospace traffic regulation and other technical professions. The CTI initiative was tasked with the prescreening of suitable and interested applicants for admission into the FAA College but did not give assurance of work with FAA. The controllers trained by the military and graduates from the CTI program were highly preferred for the FAA College preparation.

However, in the recent past, the FAA restructured the recruitment process to promote a wide range of candidates and opened the hiring practice to capture the entire public. This has had a tremendous impact as exhibited by the declining enrollment in the majority of the CTI centers (Byers 11). Additionally, the learners have shifted their majors to aeronautical programs and to unmanned programs in aircraft systems. The agency admitted that there was an increment in the rate of failure amongst new applicants at the FAA College after the change in hiring policies. The agency also anticipates a likelihood of acceleration in the number of disappointments in the coming five years. In countering the trend, the FAA intends to increase the number of applicants. It also plans to operate the FAA College to full capacity for the subsequent number of years.

Institutional Outreach

The airport setting has actively invigorated the learners studying aviation to take careers in management and operations of the airfields. The exhilaration is propagated through organizations like ACI-NA (Council International-North America) and AAAE (American Association of Airport Executives). Majority of the learners get involved in the student sections of these associations and in other on-campus chapters that offer incentives for attending zonal programs and national seminars and symposiums (Byers 11). The aviation sector is also establishing a strong rapport with students’ management in aviation through aspiring them to pursue professions in the aviation labor force and recruitment for internships, entry-level careers, networking, and scholarships.

Working in Collaboration

There is expected dominance of pilot shortfall headlines and other workforce shortages in the aeronautical arena emanating from the extensive retirements of the professionals. This is likely to be persistent as the number of individuals joining the workforce does not satisfy the numerous vacancies in the sector (Byers 12). The national and worldwide growth in the economy will fast-track the demand for the competent and adept technicians, airfield operations employees, pilots and air traffic regulators. Candidates for the entry-level ranks may reduce considerably in the short run. The sector is, therefore, required to intensify its efforts towards provision of competitive compensation and other inducements for it to entice the emergent labor force to aviation professions.

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Industry, colleges, and state ought to work in collaboration to educate, recruit and engage young specialists to be part of the aeronautical employees. The airlines in the private sector will have to establish professional paths with hefty pay packages for candidates in the entry-levels. They are also called to support the collegiate programs in aviation in order to attract and hold the trainees (Byers 12). This will be achieved through the development of solid relations with the faculties, initiation of mentoring programs, and, where possible, relieving the students of some expenses incurred while studying the aviation profession.

Notwithstanding the above, the facilities offering aviation courses ought to enquire from the sector on the desirable abilities and aptitudes necessary for a candidate to be classified as employable. This is an essential market pool link as the learners are required to gain valuable supplementary expertise away from the skills acquired from lectures. Notably, aviation is a complex sector that demands real-world knowledge and hands-on experience. The schools are obliged to request arrangements for cooperative training, internships and other preemptive initiatives from the industry to link the learners with the aviation world. The federal states ought to enact policies that nurture a supportive environment for the expansion aeronautical workforce. The guidelines are not limited to addressing the effect of the R-ATP decree on the federal airlines (Byers 12). The hiring process for the supervisors of air traffic may require appropriate adjustment if suitable applicants are difficult to recruit.


The young specialists required to steer the national airspace transportation network will be gotten from colleges. The students undertaking the aviation courses are focused and motivated by aviation occupation, and hence, they acquire distinct qualifications in the field. The extreme tuition costs, flight tutelage, and time investment make it challenging for aeronautical students to finish the course. In order to attract the superlative individuals from the evolving workforce, the compensation in the field should be proportionate to the strict accountabilities in the sector. The policies on loan repayment, scholarships, sponsored learning and AB Initio program ought to be facilitated accordingly to prospective aeronautics students. The air traffic supervision, airports and airline services ought to invest skilled and qualified personnel to ensure that aerospace transportation in the US remains safe and the most effective globally.

Work Cited

Byers, David A. “The Aviation Workforce of Tomorrow: Where Are They Needed—and Where Will They Come From?” TR News, no. 304, 2016, pp. 6-13.

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