Asian Aviation, an opportunity for young foreign pilots?

Ever since I was doing my secondary education in my home town in the Netherlands my initial dream was to become a pilot. Unfortunately with 2008 recession the entire market for air travel collapsed as a consequence. To become a pilot now is highly risky due to the low demand for new pilots in Europe as well as the huge expenses of the education. Another reason for not choosing the airline industry is the huge surplus of pilots who graduated between 2008 and now.

There might be however a light at the end of the tunnel. According to an article I read on Asia’s aviation industry 1 there might be an opportunity for foreign pilots to find work. With the GDP rising in a lot of Asian countries the possibility to fly now becomes available as well. Aircraft builder Boeing announced that over 2013 143 aircraft were delivered to China alone, which is an increase of 60 percent over the last year. Boeing also predicted that the Asia Pacific region would need 12.820 new aircraft over the next two decades tripling their current fleet. 2 In comparison Europe needs 7.460 new aircraft and the U.S. 7.250 aircraft over the same period. 3


Asia Pacific’s aircraft demand forecast

The massive growth leads to countries racing to catch up in order to accommodate all these additional aircraft with the construction of new terminals and runways. The countries that do not invest will simply lose out on traffic that as a consequence will redirect to other countries. It is expected that South-east Asia will reach a middle-class populace of 1.7 billion in 2030 this is excluding China. In order to get all those passengers from A to B some 200.000 pilots are needed. 1

The massive growth is not only positive it brings some defects as well. The first one of which is that due to the immense growth the safety aspect becomes affected in terms of the speed at which pilots need to be trained, but also airports are being built. This could lead to fatal accidents. Secondly, the rise in air traffic will have consequences for major aviation hubs in Singapore and Australia who are currently responsible for most of the flights directly to Europe. With the construction of new and longer runways more airports will be able to fly to Europe directly. The fact is that the growth is primarily focused on budget airlines which generally do not provide the best quality of service.  Finally it remains to be seen if there will be enough space for aircraft to fly trough. A lot of airspace is still used for military purposes only and is therefore not accessible to commercial aircraft. It remains to be seen if this will have major inflictions on the capacity of the airspace.


There is a great opportunity for pilots willing to work, because they will fly state-of-the-art aircraft for mostly reliable airliners. For the Asian aviation industry it is also a way to guarantee more safety as these pilots are already trained. The pilots will however face lower incomes due to the fact that most airliners are price fighters and will do everything to keep the costs at a minimum and plus the fact that higher paid positions are already filled up by more experienced pilots from abroad. 5 Secondly people must be willing to fly for an Asian airliner as most of these airliners often require you live near one of their main hubs in Asia. Finally, a lot of countries are already hard at work educating their own staff. Here at Rangsit University the place where I study there is already a whole institute devoted in training new pilots that might take over positions in the future.

I think this will help solve the problem of surplus pilots if they are willing to live somewhere else and under different payment conditions than they would get in their own country, but at least they will step into the industry making it easier to transition to an airliner closer to home at a later stadium. I think its a good thing for countries starting to work more closely together to meet the demand for new skilled airline pilots. The fact that the foreign pilots stepping in will fill up places of local pilots is for now not an issue as the demand is too big to be filled up by young pilots alone.  


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