Friday, January 04, 2008

Lost in
Translation


As a copy writer and ad agency owner, I absolutely love Jay Leno's "Headlines" bit he does on NBC's The Tonight Show. I especially love the often weird translations he uncovers when Chinese copywriters attempt to translate their language into ours. So it was simply hilarious that I found the following on chinadaily.com:

Hands Needed Urgently
to Propel the Wings


The funny-looking headline trumpets a story on a massive Chinese pilot shortage that their airlines are struggling with. See, that's what you get when their country manufactures all of our stuff...billions of middle-class Chinese workers and executives now have the money to fly commercial, even when many families of laid-off workers in our nation's Steel Belt do not.

So with so many Chinese flying, it appears that Airbus and Boeing have had their sales team over there with order books in hand. According to chinadaily.com, Airbus alone is expected to deliver 372 planes to Chinese airlines from December 2007 to 2012, while Boeing is expected to supply another 335 aircraft.

With so many new jets going across the Pacific to enter service, just who the heck will fly them? Good question:
The air transport industry has been growing at an annual rate of 16 percent, according to the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC). In 2006, the authorities estimated that the country would need 9,100 more pilots by 2010 to fly the new Boeing and Airbus planes being added to Chinese carriers' fleets at the rate of 100-150 a year. That precisely is where the problem is because pilots can't be trained to keep pace with the demand. The gap between the demand and supply of pilots is likely to be 2,000 by 2010. The problem is that no matter how many pilots are trained every year, each new plane that is delivered needs five pilots and five first officers to ensure a smooth operation, CAAC's Flight Standard Department has said.
O.K., so you think this is a problem...in China, so why worry about it? Because it's happening here too, according to this article in the Orlando Sentinel:
The aviation industry is facing a crisis, in which demand for pilots could soon outstrip supply. More than 30,000 pilots will reach mandatory retirement age in the next 10 years, and aviation-industry officials predict the need for as many as 18,000 new pilots annually through 2024. There are 1,765 student pilots in Central Florida, according to FAA records – the lion's share of them are enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. Embry-Riddle has graduated an average of 280 pilots from its aeronautical-science program annually since 1998. Delta Connection produces about 150 pilots a year.
If "aviation industry officials" say we will need 18,000 new pilots each year to enter their systems, what do you suppose is keeping huge waves of hot, young pilots out of the left seats of the regionals? Hmmm, could it be that they are grossly underpaid, earning not much more then the greeter down at Wal•Mart?

For years, starting pay for FOs has been an insult to their training and intelligence, a slap in the face to someone who has the same basic line training as the guy/gal in the left seat, but has not yet amassed the hours. We all know the airlines do this simply because they can, knowing that these new hires MUST build time if they ever want a chance at earning a living wage as a Captain. But that way of thinking appears to have now bitten them in the ass.

The airlines will continue to have a pilot shortage until their CEOs with their seven-figure salaries wake up and realize that if you want kids to think about a career as an airline pilot, you had better make those first few years pay significantly better then what the burger flippers earn at McDonalds. When twentysomethings considering flight school realize they can drag down forty grand in their first year as an FO, we might actually see enrollment numbers swell and the pilot shortage shrink.

Yeah, like that's ever going to happen in Corporate America.