Wanted: Pilots for empty cockpits

Written by Bloomberg | Updated: Sep 7 2010, 14:44pm hrs
Cathay Pacific Airways, Qantas Airways and Emirates Airline are awaiting deliveries of about 400 planes to capitalise on Asias rising prosperity. Finding pilots is the next job. Boeing Co expects the regions carriers to be the biggest buyers of twin-aisle planes as travel grows in China and Indiahome to a combined 1.1 billion middle-class people. Asia-Pacific airlines will buy about 8,000 planes worth $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years, Airbus SAS said.

Airlines worldwide need an average of 49,900 pilots a year from 2010 to 2030 as fleets expand, yet current training capacity is only 47,025, according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Montreal. That is sparking bidding wars as Emirates offers tax-free salaries and four-bedroom villas for captains, and AirAsia Bhd, the regions biggest budget airline, gives tuition-free training.

Its a major issue and will be a big challenge to the industrys growth, said Binit Somaia, a Sydney-based analyst for the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation. Even if you can find the pilots, you have to pay top dollar for them because they are so scarce.

China, the worlds fastest-growing major aviation market, will account for a third of the regions orders, Airbus, the worlds biggest aircraft maker, said in February. Its economy will grow 10.5% this year, compared with world growth of 4.6%, according to International Monetary Fund estimates. India, with estimated growth of 9.4% this year, may overtake China as the worlds fastest-growing major economy as early as 2013, according to Morgan Stanley. This year, the regions carriers ordered 133 commercial jets with more than 100 seats, or 23% of the global total, according to Ascend Worldwide, a London-based aviation forecaster.