Pilot and Technician Outlook 2020–2039

Meeting the projected long-term demand will require a collective effort across the global aviation industry. As tens of thousands of pilots, technicians and cabin crew members reach retirement age over the next decade, educational outreach and career pathway programs will be essential to inspiring and recruiting the next generation.

While the current industry downturn, driven by COVID-19, has resulted in a temporary oversupply of qualified personnel, the long-term need remains robust. In recent decades, aviation has experienced external forces that have affected demand, such as 9/11, SARS and the Great Financial Crisis. Recovery has generally followed several years later, as the fundamentals driving passenger and air traffic demand remain strong.

Prior to the downturn, the commercial aviation industry was poised to experience a shortfall of qualified pilots and technicians. Analysis of new licenses and certificates issued over the past few years had indicated that the number of new personnel entering the industry was lagging demand. The short-term oversupply allows operators the opportunity to build their pipeline in anticipation of growth returning in the next few years.

Some personnel who are currently furloughed because of the market downturn will find employment in the government and business and general aviation sectors that have previously struggled with shortages amid surging commercial demand. Additionally, as commercial traffic demand returns in upcoming years, aspiring aviators will have the opportunity to fill open positions created by a combination of personnel retirements and fleet growth.

Amid challenges posed by COVID-19, the training industry has begun to adopt increasingly innovative solutions. Many providers have transitioned their offerings to online and virtual formats where possible, allowing students to continue their learning safely. Immersive technologies, adaptive learning and flexible distance learning methods are also being explored to enable optimum learning and knowledge retention. Investments in technology that are being made today will likely lead to a long-term fundamental shift in how training is conducted.

Competency-based training and assessment programs are gaining traction, which enables a shift from prescriptive, task-based training to a more holistic approach. Advances in adaptive learning capabilities, artificial intelligence and learner analytics will further personalize training to the individual student so that greater emphasis can be placed on closing knowledge gaps.

As the industry navigates the market downturn, effective training and an adequate supply of personnel remain critical to maintaining the health, safety and prosperity of the aviation ecosystem.


New personnel demand is calculated based on a 20-year fleet forecast for commercial aviation aircraft with more than 30 seats, business jets and civil helicopters. Based on fleet growth, aircraft utilization, attrition rates and regional differences in crewing specific to aircraft type, Boeing’s Pilot and Technician Outlook estimates the number of new pilots, technicians and cabin crew members needed worldwide.

Slight variations to the forecast can occur on a year-over-year basis as a result of many factors, some of which include changes in regulations, crew productivity and aircraft mix. The forecast does not currently include assumptions for single-pilot commercial operations or autonomous airplanes. We continue to track the market for indications of regulatory movement and will update our forecast accordingly.

20-Year Pilot, Technician and Cabin Crew Outlook

Aviation employment has been significantly affected by COVID-19 and the resulting downturn in air traffic demand. A number of actions have already been taken to mitigate near-term employment impacts, including government aid, early-retirement incentives, a reduction in labor hours and pay adjustments to help operators weather the current crisis. The industry faces difficult near-term decisions; however, while a number of uncertainties could affect industry recovery, the market fundamentals driving air traffic demand remain strong and we remain confident in the long-term strength of the aviation industry.

As we look to the future, it is important to maintain a focus on recovery and ensure that we have the qualified pilots, technicians and cabin crew members required for the industry to return to long-term growth trends. We believe it will take around three years for commercial air travel to return to 2019 levels, and business aviation is currently in the midst of a robust recovery. Within that time frame, existing personnel will continue to reach retirement age or leave the industry for various reasons, leaving openings that will need to be filled by furloughed and new aviators. Additionally, as airplanes are brought out of storage, thousands of labor hours will need to be spent to ensure proper maintenance has been performed, parts are in working condition and airplanes are airworthy, requiring the expertise of skilled maintenance technicians. Cabin crews, whose primary purpose has always been to ensure the safety of passengers, are playing a critical role in industry recovery by taking the precautions necessary to strengthen traveler confidence and ensure a high level of sanitation in the cabin. As the aviation industry returns to growth, new qualified personnel will continue to be in demand to support fleet growth.

Outlook by Region

20 Year Pilot, Technician, and Cabin Crew Outlook Chart