A shrinking US pilot population and its potential to limit the growth of the helicopter industry are issues raised by a 10-year market forecast unveiled by UK engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce at the show.

The survey says the number of commercial helicopter pilots in the USA fell from around 27,000 in 1990 to fewer than 19,000 in 1997, as Vietnam-era pilots retired. Pilots are not entering the industry at the same rate because employers want candidates with substantial flying time, which is difficult for newly qualified pilots to accrue.

The view that future pilot employment should be a cause for concern is echoed by Patrick Corr, president of California-based training company Helicopter Adventures. He says although there may never be an actual shortage of civil helicopter pilots, their opportunity to progress is being affected by the industry's fixation with flight time.

"There are obstacles," asserts Corr, "but the single largest one is the assertion that quantity offlight time is the only way to determine the quality of the pilot. It's a view that's been around for the last 20 years."

Source: Flight International