A growing shortage of business jet pilots in the UK is hitting aircraft sales and creating challenges for local owners and operators who are struggling to source crews.
UK business jet sales and marketing company Colibri Aircraft expects the squeeze to continue for the foreseeable future, as commercial airlines increasingly tap private aviation to make up recruitment shortfalls.
From its analysis of data taken from Boeing’s 2019-2038 Pilot and Technician Outlook and German consultancy WingX, Colibri forecasts global demand for 98,000 new business aircraft pilots over the next two decades, including 2,500 new crew to support the UK market.
Colibri warns that airlines will “intensify” their recruitment of business aircraft pilots over the coming years, as the global passenger and freight aircraft fleet is set to "more than double" between 2019 and 2038. “During this period, it has been estimated [by Boeing] that the world needs to find 645,000 new commercial pilots,” says Colibri.
Business aircraft pilots are already leaving the sector, it adds, attracted by the “more predictable schedules” that commercial airlines can offer.
“The business aviation sector is struggling to compete with airlines in recruiting pilots,” says Colibri managing director Oliver Stone. “This means commercial airlines are not only recruiting existing business aviation pilots, but they are also getting the pick of newly qualified pilots. “The business aviation sector is struggling to compete with airlines in recruiting pilots,” says Stone. “This means commercial airlines are not only recruiting existing business aviation pilots, but they are also getting the pick of newly qualified pilots.”
The shrinking pilot population is increasingly affecting the sale of private jets, he adds. The problem is particularly acute for models at “the lower end of the price spectrum”, for which hiring a full-time pilot and freelance crew is “becoming incrementally more expensive for the owner, in relation to the value of the aircraft”.
"People are questioning in greater numbers, whether owning a business jet, particularly in the $2 million bracket and under, is worth the expense,” says Stone. “It’s a psychological block.”