Are monkeys going to be flying planes soon?

monkey pilot

You must have heard the saying “whenever you pay peanuts you get monkeys” but have you ever considered this concept when you think about the pilots that are responsible for guiding you 37’000 ft in the air and then landing you safely to your beach holiday in the Maldives?

I think some people don’t really realise that the training costs to become a certified pilot alone are an average of EUR 100,000. Some pilots get their training sponsored, but more often than not, if you want to become a pilot you have to find a way to pay that cost on your own.

I’ve been closely observing the insolvency of Air Berlin in Germany and the related situation of their redundant workers over the last few weeks. 3’000 former Air Berlin employees will have the possibility, after an assessment, to work for Lufthansa’s subsidiary Eurowings Europe GmbH. All of them would be awarded the job with significantly lower salary – some up to 40% less than they were making at Air Berlin.

There are other companies in Europe, where crews get less than peanuts. Or where pilots, instead of getting an annual salary, have to pay to fly as pilot – yes, unfortunately it is not a joke and can cost up an extra EUR 50,000!

So, it’s easy to assume that a lot of pilots run into credit issues and debt quite early into their careers. And this tendency in the airline and Business Aviation industry is scaring off new generations who dream of entering this new and exciting industry.

Crews are also visibly under more and more pressure to deliver high quality and high performance. They put in extra hours to ensure that all flights are safe, on time, economical and to ensure that every customer is completely satisfied with their trip.

busy crew

Customers are getting used to paying less and companies, who still have very high operations and maintenance costs, are forced to do cost savings on their employees to maintain their profit margins.

Customer sitting in aircraft seat

This calculation could work to keep businesses running in the near future, but if you take a closer look at the future situation – the CAE Airline Pilot Demand predicts that up until 2027 there will be a need for 255’000 new pilots to cover retirement and to cover the increase in air travel. With those things in mind, consider how many extra cabin attendants and engineers will also be needed in the next 10 years to cater for such growth in the industry.

However, if the payment of pilots, crew and engineers isn’t lucrative enough in this industry in future, the top new generation candidates will be looking into other industries where the demand of top human capital is higher and the payment is much higher than the current peanuts.

In this case, the aviation industry will need to queue for top talents and will be forced to invest a lot more in self-flying aircraft with robot pilots... or if they want to keep paying less they’ll have to consider hiring monkeys.

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