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Shrinking pilot numbers hitting business aircraft sales

A growing shortage of pilots in Europe is hitting business aircraft sales, as owners struggle to source crews to fly their assets.

That is the view of UK aircraft sales and marketing company Colibri Aircraft, which predicts the squeeze on business aircraft pilots will continue over the coming years, as commercial airlines poach crews in increasing numbers to help address their recruitment demands.

Colibri says around 70% of sales it works on encounter difficulties in relation to guaranteeing sufficient access to flightcrews. "Five years ago, this affected only 20% of our cases," it notes.

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To support its gloomy outlook, the London-headquartered company points to a White Paper, published in May by recruitment specialist AeroProfessional, which cites demand for 95,000 new commercial pilots in Europe by 2034. "Many airlines are looking to the business aviation sector to help fill this gap, leaving fewer pilots available to fly private aircraft," says Colibri managing director Oliver Stone.

This shortfall is a combination of several factors, he explains, including the legal retirement age for pilots being set at 65, and growing demand for pilots from overseas markets – especially Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

"Right now, crew availability is a real issue affecting ownership," says Stone, noting that it removes the convenience and flexibility that comes with having such an asset.

"We are increasingly having to research in the early stages of an acquisition how clients plan to crew their aircraft," he notes. "If they decide to only hire one full-time pilot and rely on contract crew, they increasingly run the risk of not having crew available when they want to fly."

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