The federal government has finally acknowledged that there is a pilot shortage in the United States. The Biden administration is going forward with granting financing to increase the supply of pilots in the United States. The initiative, emphasized by the U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has acknowledged that more needs to be done to strengthen the aviation workforce.
Buttigieg informed the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Tuesday that the FAA is looking for proposals for $5 million in Aviation Workforce Development Grants. These subsidies are intended to supplement activities by airlines and other industry actors by increasing the supply of pilots.
Workforce shortages are driving American airlines to cut summer schedules just as pandemic-weary travelers are set to throng aircraft for summer vacations. Alaska Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Spirit Airlines have all reduced their summer schedules due to a lack of manpower, including pilots.
According to Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth, “US airlines will employ around 13,000 new pilots this year and in 2023. The existing training and certification procedure, however, only generates around 5,000 to 7,000 new pilots every year. The remainder is projected to be provided by regional airlines and, to a lesser extent, smaller carriers such as Alaska and JetBlue.”
Beyond the FAA grant program, which was established in 2018, Buttigieg did not name any new or additional sources of financing to solve pilot supply difficulties. He did, however, state that the DOT must take action to assist alleviate the shortfall, and that FAA funding was “aligned” to enhance the supply of pilots.
Other attempts in Washington, D.C. to increase pilot supply include a campaign by the airline industry to enhance government financial assistance guidelines to pay living and other fees for pilot trainees. In response to protests about poor compensation for new pilots, numerous airlines have signed new contracts with their pilot unions that considerably improve pay rates.