Boeing study points to looming shortage of pilots, maintenance techs
Aircraft maker also scales back cargo growth outlook, citing shift to lower-cost modes, reduced outsourcing to Asia.
Truck drivers aren't the only transport operators expected to be in short supply in the coming years.
About 460,000 new airline pilots will be needed over the next 20 years to fly the world's aircraft, according to a Boeing Co. study. In addition, the study projects that more than 600,000 maintenance technicians will be needed, bringing to more than 1 million the number of personnel required to operate and maintain global airline fleets over the next two decades.
Given estimates that air cargo accounts for about 10 percent of global air operations, between 45,000 and 50,000 pilots would be needed to fly all-cargo aircraft between now and 2031.
The Asia-Pacific region is expected to experience the largest demand, with 185,600 new pilots needed, the study said. That was followed by Europe with nearly 101,000, and North America with 69,000, the forecast said.
Pilot shortages are already a fact of life in some parts of the world, the study said. Fast-growing Asian carriers are experiencing delays and disruptions due to constraints in pilot scheduling, the study noted.
William J. Flynn, president and CEO of Purchase, N.Y.-based Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, which, among other services, provides aircraft, crew, maintenance services, and insurance to airlines and freight forwarders, said a shortage of cargo pilots would not cause service disruptions in the air supply chain. However, it might drive up shipping costs as companies such as Atlas need to spend more money to recruit and retain qualified pilots, Flynn said in a brief interview at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' Annual Global Conference this week in Atlanta.
A CHANGE IN THE FORECAST
Boeing earlier this week forecast global air cargo to grow 5.2 percent a year through 2031, a decline from the projections of 5.6 percent growth made in 2011 and 5.9 percent in 2010. Boeing scaled back its forecast due to a slowing global economy and the longer-term trend of businesses opting for lower-cost ocean freight services to move their international shipments.
Boeing predicted an 84-percent increase in the global freighter fleet over the next two decades, which equates to a 5.3-percent annualized increase in freighter capacity. An estimated 935 new freighters will enter global fleets, with another 1,820 passenger planes being converted to freighters, Boeing said.
Where air cargo is concerned, intra-Asia will be the fastest-growing region, with 6.9 percent annualized growth. Domestic North America and intra-Europe will see the slowest growth rate, with traffic expanding at a pace at or near expected global GDP (gross domestic product) growth of 3.2 percent, according to Boeing's "World Air Cargo Forecast."
In a note today, New York investment firm Wolfe Trahan said even Boeing's scaled back growth projections "remain too optimistic" given secular shifts from air to ocean freight and a slowdown in the global outsourcing of production to Asia, which would reduce demand for airfreight services to reach far-flung markets in North America, Latin America, and Europe.
Boeing said demand for air freight will grow at a faster rate than GDP due to an increase in global trade and an emphasis on lean inventory levels that put greater reliance on fast cycle replenishments supported by air freight. However, Wolfe Trahan noted that demand for air freight has grown at a slower rate than global GDP in six of the last seven years.More articles by Mark B. Solomon
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