Tuesday, 1 July 2014


The article below from last Friday's London Daily Telegraph (sorry about the picture quality) is a timely warning for our industry, and perhaps for many other sectors as well. Almost unbelievably it reports that several Japanese airlines are having to cancel hundreds of flights because they simply cannot recruit enough pilots to meet their schedules, and this is largely attributed to the rapidly aging population demographic in Japan. The article doesn't mention that the Japanese authorities also make it quite difficult for operators to hire foreign pilots but that is a secondary factor.

Back in the mid-Noughties the hot topic at every aviation safety conference was the fast looming crisis in availability of qualified technical staff in the industry, primarily pilots, engineers and ATCOs but in fact across the board. Aviation had lost much of the glamorous patina that had lured my generation to the skies, western militaries were cutting massively into their recruitment and the consequent output of skilled and experienced people and burgeoning expansion in the Middle East and South East Asia were fuelling a rising demand that was not being adequately met.

Then came the global financial crisis to suffocate industry growth and focus everyone's attention on new commercial threats to survival. But this was a double edged sword - we all forgot about our staffing worries of last year and scrabbled to find ways to economise just to stay in business. Who wanted to shoulder the substantial financial burden of recruitment and training when what we really needed was right-sizing and redundancies.

Well as we emerge from recession around the world, guess what? The global shortage of qualified technical staff is still there and while we weren't looking it got worse. Everyone connected with this industry: operators, manufacturers, regulators, governments, industry bodies and even passengers need to work together to build financially viable training and apprenticeship programmes before more countries face flight cancellations like Japan.


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