Trainer Aircraft In Demand Amid Pilot Shortage

Tecnam P-Mentor
Tecnam’s P-Mentor trainer on display at EAA AirVenture 2023.
Credit: Molly McMillin

OSHKOSH—Demand for training aircraft was front and center at EAA AirVenture 2023, marked by announcements of hundreds of orders by manufacturers and at least one launch of a new training program. 

Tecnam held a launch ceremony for its P-Mentor two-seat aircraft dedicated to the training market, announcing orders from Kilo Charlie Aviation near Kansas City for 30 aircraft; Epic Sky Aviation in Des Moines, Iowa, for 15; the Vermont Flight Academy in Burlington, Vermont, with an order for three; and Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, with an initial order for 15 plus an option for Tecnam 2006T twin-engine aircraft. FAA certification of the P-Mentor is expected soon. 

La Rochelle, France-based Elixer Aircraft, displayed its two-seat carbon trainer during AirVenture, and highlighted an order for 100 from Sierra Charlie Aviation with deliveries beginning in early 2025. EASA CS-23 certified, the company expects FAA Part-23 certification soon. Fifteen aircraft are in service in Europe and #45 is currently on the production line, officials say. 

There is a shortage of single-engine aircraft available, says Mike Tonklin, Elixer Aircraft business development director for North America, with more aircraft going to the scrapyard per day than new aircraft coming into service. 

“The fleet needs modern aircraft,” Tonklin says. 

Boeing is forecasting demand for 2.3 million new commercial pilots over the next 20 years—not counting the need from the business aviation or the Advanced Air Mobility industries, the company said during a media conference at AirVenture.

The analysis predicts global demand for 649,000 pilots—or 32,300 pilots per year, says Chris Broom, Boeing Global Services vice president of commercial training solutions, when speaking with members of the media. Over the next 10 years, more than 25% of commercial pilots in the workforce will reach mandatory retirement age.

The pilot shortage means training institutions are working to grow as fast as possible, says Chris Crowe, Textron Aviation vice president of sales for piston products. The majority of the company’s single-engine products are being delivered to large flight schools. 

Piper Aircraft, based in Vero Beach, Florida, announced orders at AirVenture for nearly 100 Piper Archer DX and TX aircraft valued at $50 million from four flight schools, including three based in India. 

“For Piper, India, is one of the fastest growing commercial aviation markets and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future,” Ron Gunnarson, Piper vice president of sales, marketing and customer support, said during a press conference at the show. 

Most recently, Air India signed deals with Airbus and Boeing at the Paris Air Show in June for 470 commercial airliners valued at $70 billion based on list prices with an option for 70 additional aircraft. 

Skynex Aero in New Delhi ordered 27 Archer DX diesel-powered aircraft for delivery in 2024 and 2025; Dunes Aviation Academy based in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, placed an order for 10 aircraft for delivery in 2024, while Vman Aero Services based in Mumbai, has 10 aircraft on order for delivery in 2024. Sierra Charlie Aviation, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, has ordered 50 Archer TX trainers amid plans to expand from two locations to four within the year. Deliveries are scheduled are to begin in 2036 and conclude in 2030. 

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.