Jobs and recruitment in business aviation


Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple knew a thing or two about hiring talent. “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do,” was his insight on the topic. One of the latest aviation firms to launch a recruitment campaign is Elevate Aviation Group. 

Last week it revealed a $10m investment designed to improve client services by boosting recruitment for its businesses, which include Private Jet Services and Keystone Aviation, and growing infrastructure.

Elevate joins a long list looking to recruit (and retain) new talent to replace a rapidly ageing workforce. One of the biggest recruiters is Airbus. Last month the manufacturing giant confirmed it is on track to recruit more than 13,000 employees worldwide this year (after recruiting a similar number last year). So far, 7,000 new staff have been hired despite what it describes as “a challenging labour market”.  

Challenging is the word. The size of that challenge was identified recently by flight training company CAE. Global business aviation will need to recruit an additional 32,000 pilots and 74,000 maintenance technicians by 2032, its Aviation Talent Forecast revealed. Commercial aviation will need to recruit an astonishing 1.18m staff including: 252,000 pilots, 328,000 maintenance technicians and 599,000 cabin crew. 

“The industry has a big challenge ahead to meet the demand for aviation personnel,” Roger Marszalek, director of Market Strategy and Product Marketing, Civil Aviation, CAE tells Corporate Jet Investor. “To meet the demand, industry stakeholders will have to work together, everyone from operators and regulators to training providers and educational institutions to attract, train and retain talent.”

The way ahead was to embrace new solutions, technology and partners, including those from outside the aviation industry. “For example, we must find ways to attract digital natives who spend most of their time browsing and interacting online to reach and appeal to Generation Z and open their minds to the possibilities and benefits of a career in aviation,” Marszalek tells us.

So, is Elevate daunted by the prospect of launching its latest recruitment campaign? The question draws a measured response from Jeannie Thorne, vice president, Human Resources, at Elevate. “While recruitment of talent is always a challenge in any industry, Elevate Aviation Group has enjoyed a great deal of success of late,” Thorne tells us. “As such, we have the opportunity to reinvest in our team members, offering opportunities for advancement and career development while also enjoying the stability of a company founded over 20 years ago. Of late, we are finding that our unique client-centric focus offers a compelling reason to join our team.”

Another industry insider who remains sanguine about recruitment prospects is Brian Foley, founder of the aviation consultancy Brian Foley Associates. “Perhaps the pilot shortage has been discussed for so long in our industry that it has just become a given that it exists, even if it doesn’t,” he tells us. “There hasn’t been a lot of pilot job hopping, suggesting there’s not unlimited opportunities due to some shortage. In speaking to flight departments, I have not heard of a systemic lack of candidates.” 

If there’s any pilot constraint it lies with training capacity, he says. “I’ve heard some classes require the name of the pilot for a reservation, and that making pilot substitutions or reserving an open slot cannot be made.” That makes it difficult for a company onboarding a new pilot who needs recurrent or type training. And on the the technician side: “If a firm is willing to pay for talent, then they aren’t as scarce as we’ve been led to believe.” 

So, is business aviation likely to suffer predatory recruitment from commercial airlines? “Regional airlines have parked aircraft due to lack of crew to fly them,” says Marszalek at CAE. “Several airline executives have commented on the need for more pilots. Based on these market dynamics, commercial airlines will explore any possible avenue to recruit aviation talent.”  The number of commercial aircraft in service (31,000) and the fleet is expected to grow significantly (39%) over the next 10 years. The business jet fleet is smaller (at about 22,000 aircraft) and is growing at a slower rate (18% increase over 10 years).

A spokesman for commercial carrier United Airlines tells CJI: “To date, we’ve hired more than 10,000 people and are on track to bring on more than 15,000 people by the end of the year. Last year, we hired 15,000 people.” The carrier is looking for a broad range of positions including: pilots, technicians, flight attendants and agents plus accountants, technologists, lawyers, finance experts, cyber experts and network planners to help run its business.

Delta Air Lines is hiring pilots at a rate of about 200 per month. “We expect to hire more than 2,000 pilots in 2023 to support future growth,” a spokesman tells us. Launched in 2018, the company’s Propel Pilot Career Path Program, has seen more than 100 Propel participants graduate to Delta airline cockpits with another 700 in the programme.

Turning to technicians, Delta has hired more than 700 so far this year. The carrier has established partnerships with more than 50 FAA-certified aviation maintenance training institutions around the US.

So, recruitment looks like a challenge – but not an unsurmountable one. Let’s leave the last words to the late (and much-lamented) Steve Jobs. Here’s the last part of his insight on recruitment. “We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

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