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Pilot & Mechanic Shortage

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  • Pilot & Mechanic Shortage

    "We have a pilot and mechanic shortage right now" says HAI President Matt Zuccaro

    Given the number of Heli-Expo sessions and events focused on developing fresh talent for the rotorcraft industry, it’s clear that a key issue is promoting careers for new entrants, helping existing participants further their careers and filling jobs that are opening as Vietnam-era pilots and mechanics retire. These efforts are recognized not only by the HAI’s Professional Education Courses, which begin on February 20 in Anaheim, but also by CFI, pilot and maintenance technician mentoring programs, the Helicopter Foundation International Outreach to Students and the Helicopter Industry Job Fair. This year, the Job Fair will be held on February 25 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and participating companies include Air Evac EMS, Air Methods, CHC Helicopter/Heli-One, Hillsboro Aviation, Med-Trans, PHI, Reach Air Medical and Reliance Aerotech Services. As always, there is no charge for job seekers.

    “We have a pilot and mechanic shortage right now,” said Zuccaro, “and we see it getting worse before it gets better.” Three years ago Vietnam-era personnel began to retire, and the pipeline of new pilots and mechanics is insufficient to meet the current needs of the industry. Fewer military pilots are leaving to switch to civilian careers, and the military these days is training fewer helicopter pilots than it used to.

    The rotorcraft industry is facing two obstacles to recruiting new pilots: the high cost of training, about $80,000 to reach the flight instructor level; and the degree of specific training needed to fill many jobs, such as fire-fighting, external load carrying and electronic news gathering.

    One solution, Zuccaro said, is “to come to the realization that we can maintain the same level of safety with less experienced personnel as long as we realize that’s the situation and change the way we do business to reflect that.” The typical entry-level requirement for a commercial helicopter pilot is a minimum 1,000 hours of flight experience. But flight instructors with 500 to 700 hours, he said, “are excellent candidates to enter the commercial marketplace. We have to move away from the [idea] that the level of flight hours determines safety. It really doesn’t; it’s their culture and their attitude.” To bring new pilots up to speed, Zuccaro suggests employing them in fields where less specialization is required, such as air tours and charter, then building on that experience for more specialized flying.

    In fact, he pointed out, insurance underwriters price their policies based on accident statistics, not on arbitrary flight-hour requirements. “Lots of policies allow the operator to assign any pilot the operator wants, with no minimum hours,” he explained. “We have to address what the requirements and restrictions are, rather than false criteria, and promote the industry to the best of our ability and make sure we’re competitive.”

    On that note, HAI is also focusing on mentoring programs to help new and existing personnel further their careers. HAI chairman Anthony Burson launched the mentoring effort last June. This effort includes outreach to aviation universities and flight schools, including a new HAI student membership that is free for the first three years.
    Last edited by Aviafora Newsdesk; 1st February 2014, 10:20.

  • #2
    The missis will tell you I've been talking about this for years . As the average age of the industry is quite high (about 57 I believe) and people have to retire at 60 (or at least have a copilot), I think there are going to be a lot of quick promotions. I know that one N Sea company is investing money in people who in other circumstances would have been let go, as they will never meet more than a minimum standard.