Hit by fuel prices, the wide economic effects of the global credit crunch, and increased departure taxes slapped on air travel during the good times when governments cashed in, the airline industry is in turmoil. Technically it's just another cycle that the world will get over in due course, but the simultaneous credit squeeze has added an unfamiliar dimension.
If the airlines feel pain, so will all their suppliers. Obviously that means aircraft manufacturers, but also the training industry that provides the highly skilled specialists essential to its operation. Quality pilots and engineers, of which yesterday there was a worldwide shortage, are suddenly finding themselves victims of the airline rush to ground aircraft - particularly the older ones - to cut costs and tailor their capacity to reduced market growth or even a decline. The degree to which this is occurring shows considerable regional variation, with the USA earliest and worst hit, but the Americas as a whole following suit, followed by Europe. In the rest of the world the effects are more patchy, but no world region is likely to escape at least a slow-down in growth.
The airlines have responded traditionally: throw strategic planning out the window and just do what it takes to survive. Abandoned planning includes ensuring a future supply of skilled employees.
There is a considerable human fallout from this implosion. Pilots who lose their jobs become gypsies again, travelling the world to where the work is. This is familiar territory to those who have been in the industry a long time, but it breaks up families and is a human resources nightmare for airlines that hire employees with multiple nationalities, cultures, languages, expectations and personal problems.
Meanwhile the receding tide of economic performance in Europe has created one small but poignant piece of human flotsam: the world's first pilots to have flown the line with the new multi-crew pilot licence as their qualification have been made redundant, along with other colleagues. This looks ominous for the future of the MPL, because these young pilots will struggle harder than their traditionally licensed peers to find work with airlines unfamiliar with the new licence. This fact will not be lost on aspiring pilot trainees. Yet, on the other side of the world, Australia is about to join the small list of countries that have embodied the MPL into their aviation regulations. Right now, the industry looks completely disorientated.