What is the commercial pilot license?
Commercial pilots are also known as commercial license holders. They can transport cargo, passengers, and persons, perform other operations such as aerial surveying, or do search and rescue. The difference between airline pilots and commercial pilots is that airline pilots operate scheduled passenger flights. In contrast, commercial pilots do not have an ATP certification–the highest FAA-issued pilot license. To get an ATP you must obtain a private pilot’s license and a commercial license from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). To work as a commercial pilot in Canada, you must have a Canadian Commercial Pilot License (CCPL). To get one, you must complete ground school studies and obtain at least 200 hours of flight training.
A big drop since 2019 and covid
Transport Canada numbers show that the number of commercial pilot licenses awarded each year was relatively consistent for much of the past decade, averaging 1,116 licenses annually between 2012 and 2019. But in 2020 — when COVID-19 became widespread — those numbers fell off a cliff: only 300 – 474 licenses were awarded that year, and then declined even further to 293 in 2021 and 238 in 2022. During the pandemic, part of the collapse in certifications is likely due to physical distancing and other health-related challenges experienced by flight schools. A survey conducted by the Flight School Association of North America in May 2020 found that approximately 50 percent of flight schools were forced to close temporarily in the early days of the pandemic; as a result, delays and disruptions occurred during pilot education. During the worst days of the pandemic (which may last from 2023 to 2025), thousands of pilots were laid off or furloughed; some even retired early as they struggled with illness themselves or watched loved ones succumb to the disease. The shortage of pilots is going to cause economic hardship to airlines if the problem isn’t solved soon.
Canada’s commercial pilot shortage is a major concern.
A pilot shortage is brewing in Canada due to an aging workforce, the rapid proliferation of new discount airlines, and pressure on the labor supply. A 2018 Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace report said that a third of flight operators in the country at that time cited pilots as their biggest skills shortage. The report said the need for experienced pilots was beginning to outpace the available national supply and projected the industry would need an additional 7,300 pilots by 2028. That means Canada needs to train even more pilots; however, returning to the pre-COVID status quo won’t be enough because of skyrocketing training costs. Experts say one problem with this scenario is the fact that many young people who are interested in becoming pilots don’t see it as a viable career option anymore due to soaring tuition costs and tighter restrictions on credit card use by consumers during economic recessions like those that occurred during 2008 and 2009.
Airlines are struggling because of the high cost of operating an airplane.
The cost of becoming a commercial pilot in 2023 is more than double what it was 20 years ago. But while experienced captains at mainline carriers can expect to earn well over six figures, most young pilots have to spend a decade gaining experience on remote and northern routes or at lower-paying budget airlines before they can aspire to that level. “The challenge today is that starting wages are so low,” said Robert Kokonis, president and managing director at Toronto-based consultancy AirTrav Inc. “Traditionally, there are many families that would help fund their child’s commercial pilot license. And many families, I think, have stopped doing that just because of the stress of the pandemic [economic recession], higher interest rates [on loans], higher inflation [prices rising], and uncertainty about whether the kids will get a payoff from this route.”
The government and aviation industry must come together to find solutions to this increasing issue.
Transport Canada is doing all it can to help find solutions to the problem. The federal government is working on a national supply chain strategy, which will be detailed in next year’s budget. The plan focuses on labor shortages within the transportation industry, Sau Sau Li said, adding that Transport Canada also seeks to expand existing pilot training programs and modernize regulations to address skills development and training barriers. There are many things government and airlines could do to stabilize the supply of pilots in this country, from subsidizing training to making it more affordable to ensure that there are enough seats at flight schools across the country for every student who wants one. It’s time to pay front-line employees more, and it’s also time for airlines to sponsor people who want to become pilots. This country is facing a shortage of pilots, and it’s threatening to hold back our economy.
Stephenson, A. (2023, January 20). Number of commercial pilot licences issued in Canada has collapsed since 2019. CTVNews. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/number-of-commercial-pilot-licences-issued-in-canada-has-collapsed-since-2019-1.6238793?utm_medium=email&utm_source=rasa_io&utm_campaign=newsletter