#55 | The Pilot Shortage – Drivers That Keep Good Pilots Around

This episode discusses the pilot shortage problem and helps answer the question,  “How do I keep my pilots(s)?”

We’ll hack through the hearsay and discuss five data points that can drive your pilot retention up, or down… so you can decide how to manage pilot retention in your flight operation.

Confident economic times lead to confident economic spending. This spending flows into travel.  And today, people are traveling more by air… both commercially on airlines and privately on charter, fractional, and your fully-owned aircraft.

This fact, coupled with an aging pilot demographic required to retire at 65, has created a market demand for qualified, experienced pilots. These keywords: qualified and experienced, are driving forces in the airline vs. corporate flying fight to fill cockpits with safe aviators.

The pilots in your cockpit are probably qualified and experienced.  So, if you haven’t lost a 45 and under pilot to the airlines yet, get ready.

Pilots ask themselves the “should I stay” question at every payday.

Almost universally, pilots are quietly completing airline applications with hopes of improving their lifestyle. When they get hired at Delta, JetBlue, or another operator offering an improved lifestyle, you might find yourself stuck, unable to utilize your aviation asset, OR unable to utilize your aviation asset at the safety/efficiency level you’re accustom to. So, the question is:

How do I keep my pilot(s)?

If you’ve lost a pilot to the airlines, you’re probably familiar with the following reasons revealed in the exit interview:

  • not enough money
  • always have to be available, no schedule
  • too much extra work

While these rational are real, and they do impact employee perception of career stability and quality of life (the “should I stay” question that comes up every payday), their are 5 factors within your control that can help you source and sustain qualified and experienced pilots on your payroll so you avoid the retention issue while flying safely and efficiently.  We explore each factor below in detail in this episode.

5 Drivers That Keep Pilots

  • Direction:  Competent Leadership, Common Sense Decision Making, Care/Fair, & Stability
  • Days Worked:  Time Away Weekly, Monthly, Holidays, Weekends, Protected Time Off
  • Duties:  People, Operations, Strategy
  • Dollars:  Based on Aircraft Size, Base, Bonus, Benefits
  • Divorce:  Reasonable Guaranteed Time w/ Spouse/Family


Five factors drive pilot retention:  Direction, Days, Duties, Dollars, Divorce. Depending on your flight operation segment: 91 family, corporate, fractional, 135 charter or 121 airline, considering the five factors when sourcing and sustaining qualified and experienced pilots will lower your risks (safety, financial, overall headache) while maintaining or increasing the “time machine effect” value of your aviation investment.


Your Opinion?

While airlines poach the charter, corporate, and family-owned flight departments, how will you keep your pilot(s)?  Share your feedback below, or with me directly here.

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  1. […] Tom Wachkowski of the Private Jet Podcast said that these are the five factors involved with pilot retention: […]