The International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned of a shortage of pilots in late 2007, saying that from now to 2024, global aviation needs around 17,000 pilots/year to meet its development needs and to replace retiring pilots.

Recently, three big airlines in the Middle East, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, ordered 237 aircrafts and the total number of pilots that they need is around 5,000. A series of pilots from Asian countries have gone to the Middle East to seek jobs with higher pay.

While Indonesia and Brazil are seriously short of pilots, China needs more than an additional 9,000 pilots by 2010. American airways are estimated to need around 120,000 new pilots by 2017 while its training capability is much smaller.

To deal with the global shortage of pilots, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) decided to extend the retirement age of commercial pilots from 60 to 65. It has also introduced new pilot training standards, employing simulation equipment to shorten training time.

Vietnamese air carriers have to hire large numbers of foreign pilots (around 30% at Vietnam Airlines and nearly 100% at Pacific Airlines). Of 420 pilots of Vietnam Airlines, 119 are foreigners and only one of 45 pilots at Pacific Airlines is Vietnamese.

According to Thanh, newly established airways in Vietnam will have to entirely use foreign pilots.

From 1996 to 2006, Vietnam Airlines selected 215 trainees for pilot training courses and 184 of them have become pilots. Annually, Vietnam Airlines trains 18.4 pilots while it needs 50 pilots.

From now to 2017, Vietnam Airlines needs around 80 pilots while the number of trainees sent abroad for pilot training is much lower than that figure. Thanh said Vietnam Airlines will have to keep hiring foreign pilots and it will have to pay around $20 million a year for this.

To deal with this problem, a pilot training centre has been built. Individuals are also encouraged to learn to become pilots themselves. The aviation sector is cooperating with international partners to train pilots.

Thoi Bao Kinh Te Viet Nam - May 19, 2008