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The challenges of getting a pilots’ license

Flying is an amazing hobby and a challenging and interesting profession. 

Unfortunately, flying has many challenges, and this is seen in the data.  Many students who start never in fact finish their license.  In Canada, the number of student pilot permits hovers just around 10,000 but the number of private licenses issued in a year is just over 2000 (based on the latest data I could find).  Generally, about 1 in 5 flight students ever finish their license. There are many barriers, most of them financial. Another common problem is becoming disillusioned with flying – that it is simply too big of a commitment than originally thought.  Also, keeping up with it is hard, one has to fly regularly to maintain proficiency, and this can get expensive.

The profession is very gender-unbalanced

A career as a pilot is one of the most gender-unbalanced workplaces that exists today in terms of number of participants.  As we know, there are very few female pilots. Only about 6% of all private licenses are held by women, about 7% of commercial licenses holders are female, and only 3-4% of airline transport licenses are female.  The desires of many operators to have a more gender balanced workforce of pilots can potentially stack the odds in favor of females. That is not saying that you will get a flying job faster because you are female, but applicants with the same level of experience and proficiency and differ only in gender may have employers favoring females, all things equal.

The pilot shortage

We hear much of the looming pilot shortage.  So what’s happening? Boeing and Airbus have predicted it for years and have estimated the shortage to be as high as 500,000 – half a million – new airline pilots required over the next two decades.  This is a worldwide shortage and not just North American,  since most of the growth in airlines is outside of Canada and the U.S.  The bulk of new demand will be from India and the Asia Pacific region.   Though there is definitely some debate about the extent of the pilot shortage, the overseas demand appears to be largely certain to rise.

How to we overcome these hurdles in getting a license?

1.  Be financially prepared

Knowing that money can be an issue we can simply be prepared to pay the initial costs of training. If you budget around $10,000 for your PPL you will be able to complete it without stressing out or worrying about money.  However this is only if you don’t take huge breaks in your training (like me!). These breaks get expensive and it’s frustrating worrying about money when you’re learning.   Flying requires so much concentration you don’t want to have to worry about how you’re going to pay for it.

Can you set aside this kind of money?  If it is a priority for you, you certainly can. You will just have to make some financial trade-offs.

2.  Make time

Make room in your life for flying.  Let your friends and family know that you will sometimes be unavailable in the evenings or weekends; you won’t be able to make some social engagements.  Let people know that this is important to you.  You will find people are very receptive to this and very supportive! They always want to talk about flying and will be interested in your progress. Give yourself time to prepare for flights, review lesson plans, and de-brief on your own time. Come fresh for every flight, you will spend less money when you are prepared and ready to learn.

3. Create a pilot network

Talk to your fellow students; make friends, lean on one another.  If you get frustrated with something, just reach out. You will find that your peers are having many of the same problems that you are.  You will find that the support will go a long way to helping you reach your goals!

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About Alicja

Learning to fly at CYBW, no 6 for aircraft movements in Canada. I live in the Rockies, economist, writer, skier, climber, obsessed with mountains & aviation!

One comment

  1. just the article ive been looking for. Start training next year and I want to be prepared for everything.