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While the number of flights has been multiplying for four years, even at the double digit rate in the summer season, air workers do not do so at the same pace or in the same proportion. The sector is short of cash and this shortage, as international as the journeys of most of the companies, is noticeable in Spain and may compromise the future demand of the airlines.

Drivers, flight attendants and pilots are professions with deficits although, due to different circumstances and their particularities, not all are currently among the most demanded within the sector. Specifically in the case of pilots, in Spain only 6,433 people are licensed to fly a commercial aircraft, according to a report prepared by the business news agency pyme.info.

The State Aviation Safety Agency (AESA) reports that during the past year commercial pilots with ATPL (Airline Transport) license -both for airplanes and helicopters- in Spain grew by only 2.6%. And, nevertheless, those who studied studies aimed at obtaining the degree of commercial piloting took all the positions available in the Spanish aeronautical schools.

According to the agency, the 2016 Airport World Traffic Forecast report from the Airports Council (ACI) will require at least 112,000 new professionals in the next 20 years, at an annual rate of almost 6,000 new pilots to meet the growth of air traffic. According to this global need, Spain should incorporate 1,120 pilots, since it takes 19% of the passenger traffic of the EU, according to Eurostat.

However, to reach this figure the pilot schools should increase their capacity fivefold, since only 228 pilots obtained the license in 2016 in our country, after two years of training. This number, according to the report of pyme.info is insufficient to cover both the future needs of airlines and those of pilot schools where they obtain accreditation. The reason is that the existing professionals (in 2016 were 985 active instructors) should be divided between the airlines and the schools. Therefore, according to the agency, manufacturers and airports confirm that it is necessary to train more than 1,000 new pilots a year in Spain.

The aircraft builders Boeing and Airbus also foresee a shortage of professionals in air transport. Both estimate that traffic will grow above 4.5% until 2035 and that in Europe it will increase more than 3.5%. The American manufacturer was already collecting in its Pilot and Technical Forecast that between 2017 and 2035 it will require 617,000 new professionals; in particular, 104,000 for Europe and 1,098 for Spain. Meanwhile, the Global Market Forecast 2016-2035 of the European Airbus consortium expects the number of pilots to double in this time frame, which would mean the incorporation of 250,000 for 40,000 aircraft with more than 100 seats. In this way, the annual demand for pilots worldwide would reach 30,000 per year.

The increase of air traffic must be added an important factor: retirement. Last year 68 pilots retired in Spain. The renewal of the staff may not have been particularly significant so far, but it will increase in the next five years. This problem will be especially pressing on US airlines.

Published: Elmundo. es – Article by Silvia Fernández