Saturday, September 18, 2010

Asia-Pacific Driving Demand For Pilots, Techies

Global demand for pilots and maintenance personnel is set to increase dramatically, but the demand is concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region and other emerging economies.

A shortage of skilled and qualified labor is already evident in some countries in these growth regions. Philippine Airlines canceled dozens of Airbus A320 flights in July and August after 27 of its A320 captains and first officers resigned suddenly to join other airlines. And Garuda Indonesia cannot expand its low-cost carrier Citilink due to personnel shortages.

Another employment bottleneck in Asia is being created by the dearth of skilled engineers to maintain the growing fleets. Fokker Services Asia Managing Director Raj Ramanujam says, “the suggestions I’m getting are that the number of people coming into the [maintenance, repair and overhaul] business is slowly coming down.”

Boeing’s latest market outlook says 467,000 pilots and 597,000 maintenance technicians need to join the global industry in 2010-29 to meet the projected 3.3% per annum growth in the commercial aircraft fleet.

The Asia-Pacific region will account for the bulk of the jobs, needing close to 181,000 pilots and 220,000 maintenance technicians, according to Boeing. There will be demand for 97,000 pilot and 137,000 maintenance technician jobs in North America, and Europe will require 95,000 pilots and 122,000 maintenance technicians during the period.

The other big growth markets are the Middle East, which will have demand for 33,000 pilots and 45,000 maintenance technicians, and Latin America, with jobs for 33,000 pilots and 45,000 maintenance technicians, says the Boeing outlook.

“North America is slowing significantly and has reached its peak,” says Boeing Training & Flight Services’ chief customer officer, Roei Ganzarski, adding that “most of the overall [jobs] growth in the world is coming from the growth regions,” such as Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East.

“It is amazing what’s happened over the last two years,” Ganzarski notes. “In 2008, there was a severe slump in the global economy and people were talking about retrenching. Now things have flipped suddenly. We were caught a little off guard by the speed with which it happened.”

The 20-year trend is clear, Ganzarski says, even if there will be ups and downs, given the cyclical nature of the business.

In some regions there is a lack of infrastructure, such as facilities in which to train the large numbers of people required by the industry, he says. His division is responding to the situation by, for example, establishing Boeing 787 aircraft simulator centers in Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore. North America and Europe, meanwhile, will each have one 787 simulator center.

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