Aviation Workforce Symposium Opening Remarks

Former Acting Administrator, Daniel K. Elwell (February 2018–August 09, 2019)

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Aviation Workforce Symposium.

It’s great to see the variety and caliber of the stakeholders here today, and I want to thank you for taking the time to join us.

The aviation community has always come together to tackle its most pressing challenges.

Today, we need to do it again.

Air travel in the United States and around the world is growing rapidly – with no signs of slowing down.

Last year, IATA forecast that the number of air passengers traveling will nearly double by 2036.

The Boeing Pilot Outlook projects this growth will require 117,000 new pilots in North America alone.

But at a time when we need to see interest in aviation careers going up, the data is trending in the opposite direction.

The number of private pilots holding active airmen certificates has decreased by 27 percent in the last ten years. The number of commercial pilots in the same period has decreased by 21 percent.

The military – which used to be one of the best sources for new hires – isn’t turning out as many new pilots as it used to. And college aviation programs don’t have enough instructors to teach new students, because they’re taking jobs with the airlines as soon as they log enough time.

Meanwhile, the huge bubble of B-scale airline hires in the 80s – of which I was one – is up for retirement in the next 5 to 10 years. And the average age of an Airline Transport Pilot certificate-holder has climbed to 50.

I know this paints a sobering picture.

But there needs to be a common understanding of the gravity and urgency of this situation.

We have a diminishing supply of qualified pilots, mechanics, and technicians.

That’s why we’re here today… to focus on solutions.

We’re going to discuss how we can make aviation careers attractive and open to all Americans who have the skill to succeed in this profession.

But aptitude and innate talent can only get you so far.

We’re also going to discuss how we can improve training, so that a new pilot can be transformed into the safe, experienced professional the traveling public deserves and expects on the flight deck.

And we’re going to look at how new and existing partnerships between the airlines, government, and academia can support all of these efforts.

Of course, ensuring an adequate pilot supply doesn’t strictly fall under the FAA’s jurisdiction.

But it is our responsibility to ensure the safety of our aviation system… and that the pilots flying within it receive the best training and are held to the highest standards.

We’re not going to compromise on this.

So as we approach today’s discussion, we need to remember that it’s not going to be enough to just maintain our current level of safety.

We need to actively improve on it.

So… we’ve got a lot on our plates to discuss.

I know there are a lot of strong opinions in the room.

And I’m really looking forward to hearing from each and every one of you.

We’ve got the best of the best here with us today, serving as panelists, moderators… even just sitting in the audience.

And with all of this collective expertise, I know we’ll be able to come up with some actionable ideas that will ensure America maintains a robust pilot supply – that also happens to be the safest and best-trained in the world.

Thank you.