The recent amazing performance by the crew on Southwest 1380 highlighted Captain Tammie Jo Shults’ exceptional crisis management skills. Her training was outstanding and her handling of the engine explosion is a testimony not only to her military training, but also her airline training. Her co-pilot deserves praise too.
The US airline pilot pool is large but may be facing limits. Look at the chart, where we divided the pool into four groups and you can see the percent of the airline pilot pool for each segment.
Are the younger pilots, under 30, coming into the profession at fast enough rates? The growth areas in the US airline pilot pool are between 40 and 54. After 54 the number of airline pilots in the US drops off fast. There is a diehard group between 60 and 69 that may be very helpful in keeping the numbers where they are overall.
We have made the case in the past that for the world supply of pilots to meet demand, it is essential the profession attracts more women. Captain Shults demonstrates unequivocally that women have the fine motor skills and fortitude to handle an in-flight crisis. This job isn’t about muscle strength.
In the next chart, you can see the US industry has been attracting more pilots. Between 2012 and 2017 there were nearly 11% more pilots working in the airline industry.
Happily, we see that the number of women entering the profession has grown by just over 20%. But the overall number is a pitiful sub 5% overall. It can’t be the airline pilot lifestyle – most flight attendants have the same lifestyle and by far most of them are female. So what is it that doesn’t attract women to the profession?
In Quebec, we learned this week that the province provides free pilot training. They are trying to attract more women. If you are a Canadian citizen and a resident of Quebec – pilot education is free. If even this does not attract enough women, there has to be something more needed.
Captain Shults is an example for women; she is the female Captain Sully. There have to be plenty of women who now look to her as an inspiration. The industry needs more people (women and men) like this.