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Despite the negative news about airlines that seems to surface on an almost daily basis, the industry continues to grow and thrive. In light of that, Boeing just released its 2017-2036 Pilot and Technician Outlook. It’s an annual report from the manufacturer, and this most recent edition highlights the industry’s urgent need for licensed aviation professionals.

Image courtesy of Boeing
Image courtesy of Boeing.


Boeing said the commercial aviation industry will need 637,000 new airline pilots worldwide between now and 2036. That boils down to just over 87 pilots a day, or almost four pilots every hour. The rapidly growing Asia-Pacific region accounts for 40% of the need, with 253,000 pilots needed. North America needs less than half of that, at 117,000, followed by 106,000 in Europe, 63,000 in the Middle East, 52,000 in Latin America, 24,000 in Africa and 22,000 in CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States)/Russia.

Why so many new pilots? There are two reasons. First, airlines are adding a bunch of new planes to support growing market demand in addition to replacing older, less efficient planes. Naturally, the more planes you have, the more pilots you need. Airline pilots also have a maximum working age of 65, so retirees have to be replaced.

Boeing says airlines will need to order 41,030 planes between now and 2036, valued at approximately $6.1 trillion. 25,530 of those new planes will be single-aisle planes, similar to the Boeing 737. As of July 18, Boeing has a backlog of 5,744 planes to build.

Photo by Paul Thompson
Photo by Paul Thompson.

Aircraft Maintenance Technicians

Aircraft maintenance technicians (AMTs) aren’t only needed when something on a plane breaks; preventative maintenance is necessary as well. The required checks account for most of the time an aircraft will spend out of service throughout its life cycle. Depending on the age and type of plane, along with what needs to be checked, a plane that is functioning perfectly may be out of service anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks.

Planes can also spend extra time out of service when an airline decides to upgrade its interior fixtures, seats or in-flight entertainment systems. These upgrades are often done during the most intensive maintenance checks.

Although modern aircraft such as the 787 Dreamliner require less maintenance than other planes, Boeing estimates that 648,000 maintenance technicians will be needed in the 2017-2036 timeframe. Once again, the growth will be led by the Asia-Pacific region, which will need 256,000 AMTs in the next 20 years.

Cabin Crew

Hopefully by now, everyone understands that flight attendants aren’t just there to serve you food and beverages. The largest need of all is for flight attendants, which Boeing estimates at 839,000 within the next 20 years. After all, modern planes can fly with two pilots, but the government requires a flight attendant for every 50 passengers the plane can hold. For example, Southwest Airlines has to staff four flight attendants on its 737-800, which holds 175 passengers.

Flight attendants don’t have a maximum age limit here in the US, and some have served beyond age 80. But in other countries, airlines are allowed to discriminate on the grounds of age, marital status and the physical shape of flight attendants. Until those policies are gone, the flight attendant position will remain more of a temporary job rather than a career in some parts of the world, resulting in a high turnover rate and the continual need for more professionals to fill these positions.

Featured photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba / Getty Images

Know before you go.

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