The Canadian Airports Council today welcomed a motion tabled in the House of Commons recently to initiate parliamentary study of flight training in Canada, as a result of concerns by communities and their airports on the impact of a worldwide pilot shortage on regional air routes.
“Canada’s airports support the motion your colleague, Stephen Fuhr of Kelowna-Lake Country, tabled on flight training earlier this week,” said CAC President Daniel-Robert Gooch, in remarks to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport. “The pilot shortage is an industry concern already being felt in regional air service and a study by you on this would be welcome.”
Canada faces a shortfall of about 3,000 pilots over the next seven years but some regional air carriers are finding it a challenge attract and retain qualified pilots. As a result, there has been an increase in the cancellation of regional flights in some parts of Canada due to crew shortages – a tremendous reliability concern for travellers and communities that rely on these services.
“When travellers see frequent cancellations on a particular air route, this creates concerns about the reliability of a particular service. If travellers choose to drive to their destination or to an alternate airport instead, the community may lose the service altogether.” said CAC Chair Sam Samaddar, who is also airport director at Kelowna International Airport. “Canada’s flight training schools, which are among the best in the world, are busy marketing their services but there are barriers to growing the student base and retaining more of these pilots here in Canada.”
Of the 1,200 students at Canada’s flight schools, about 40 per cent are foreign students who typically go home after their studies. Making it easier for them to stay and work would help, as would more financial support to Canadians entering the expensive pathway to becoming a commercial pilot, which can cost $75,000 to $150,000.
Meanwhile, demand for air travel in Canada is booming with 5 per cent growth in traveller volumes over the first eight months of the year, and even stronger growth of 6-8 per cent in U.S. and overseas markets. In his remarks to the House Transport Committee, Mr. Gooch also spoke to the strain this growth is putting on government services, like security screening and border services, and the need for continued investments on ground access to airports, such as light rail and road links.