Pilot shortage looms in region

21 November 2013

While the Gulf’s aviation sector is continuing to boom, the long-term future of the industry will rely on investment in people, not just planes

The fierce rivalry between US’ aircraft manufacturer Boeing and Toulouse-based Airbus was clearly evident at this year’s Dubai Airshow as they battled to secure the largest share of the booming Gulf aviation sector.

There was sniping from Airbus about the inadequate size of Boeing aircraft seats, while the US firm launched a new aircraft model marketed as more technologically advanced than Airbus planes.

With each passing hour of the event, yet another multibillion-dollar contract was signed by one of the manufacturers with the leading Gulf airlines, Dubai-based Emirates, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

By the close of the show, more than $200bn-worth of aircraft contracts had been signed, with the two companies accounting for the largest share of the show order book.

With such strong growth forecast for the Gulf’s aviation sector, neither manufacturer need be overly concerned about a reduction in demand for their aircraft.

Airbus’ 20-year forecast suggests that there will be at least 2,000 new deliveries of aircraft in the region.

As the GCC continues to increase its airport capacity and positions itself as a global transit hub, its appetite for new and bigger planes is unlikely to dwindle.

What is lacking in the region is the people needed to fly and fix the planes. Boeing’s forecast suggests that, over a 20-year period, the Middle East will require 40,000 new pilots and 53,100 new technicians. This equates to finding 2,000 additional pilots every year.

Both Boeing and Airbus are already
investing in new methods of training future generations of pilots and technicians as well as ways to inspire students to enter the aerospace industry.

Increasing their focus on this, rather than simply trying to outdo each other on sales, will ensure the sustained growth of their business.

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