Aircraft manufacturers and operators concur that a shortage of pilots is real and getting worse, with the consultancy Oliver Wyman forecasting “a global gap of 34,000 pilots by 2025”--coming sooner in some areas and perhaps reaching 50,000 worldwide. Looking further out, Boeing said late last year that more than 200,000 new pilots would be needed by 2039--in North America alone. It’s thus a very good time for trainer aircraft, like the two ATP Cessna Skyhawks shown here.
ATP Is the Largest Player
Jacksonville, Florida-based ATP Flight School, founded in Atlanta in 1984 and now the largest flight training company in the U.S., cites an expected shortage of 12,000 pilots by 2023. ATP claims the world’s largest flight training fleet, with more than 400 aircraft. The company says it has 179 Cessna Skyhawk singles as well as Piper Archer singles, and the industry’s largest multi-engine fleet, with 90 Piper Seminoles. ATP broke ground on a new pilot training center in Fort Myers, Florida, this month. A Cessna Skyhawk (foreground) and Piper Seminole are shown here at ATP’s facility in Mesa, Arizona.
The Cessna 172 Skyhawk
Credit: Textron Aviation/Cessna
Billed as “the world standard for pilot training,” the Cessna 172 Skyhawk entered service in 1956, and 45,000 have since been delivered since then. Jacksonville, Florida-based ATP Flight School alone operates nearly 200. Manufacturer Textron Aviation has just named the SoCal Pilot Center, Mike Smith Aviation, Louisville Aviation and Lanier Flight Center as “Top Hawk” program participants for 2021; they receive a new Skyhawk with Garmin G1000 NXi avionics for the duration of the program. Orientation late last month for a Cessna summer internship program in Wichita reportedly drew some 230 participants.
Two Piper Pilot 100i Aircraft for RFA
Credit: Piper Aircraft
The Tuskegee Airmen’s new RFA--the RedTail Flight Academy--is to begin training this coming September at New York Stewart International Airport with two new Piper Pilot 100i aircraft. The program is kicking off with six pilot scholarships, with a goal of 30 students per year by 2026. “Our vision is to create a state-of-the-art flight training academy that uses aviation as a developmental tool,” said Glen Fraser, flying program director. “Providing a modern single-engine aircraft equipped with a glass cockpit affords our students a competitive advantage for flying in the contemporary world.”
Diamond Reports a 50-Aircraft Trainer Order
Diamond Aircraft Industries this year reported a firm order for 50 of its DA40 NG singles and DA42-VI twins, with an option for 50 more to Raleigh, North Carolina-based Blue Line Aviation. Blue Line boasts the fastest accelerated training program in the nation, Diamond says, taking students from zero flight time to a Multi-Engine Instructor in 5.5 months.
In other recent news, North Charleston-based CRAFT Flight Training & Simulation is hosting a July summer camp at the Summerville Airport in cooperation with WAI-PPC (the Palmetto Pride Chapter of Women in Aviation), the Lowcountry Aviation Association, the Philip Simmons High School AFJROTC unit and the Hiram E. Mann Tuskegee Airmen Chapter using a Diamond DA20. “For the aviation industry to remain healthy and grow, we have to invest in its future,” said CRAFT co-owner and instructor Jay Aldea. Photo shows a Diamond DA40 over Charleston, South Carolina.
Cirrus Notches Major Milestones in 2021
Cirrus Aircraft offers a line of TRAC20 (shown), TRAC22, and TRAC22T (turbocharged) trainers based on its SR20, SR22 and SR22T singles. In January, Minnesota-headquartered Cirrus unveiled a Limited Edition aircraft to commemorate the expected delivery of its 8,000th SR Series plane. Cirrus says its SR Series “has been the world’s best-selling single-engine piston for 18 years in a row,” and that in addition to the 8,000th delivery, it will this year reach more than 11 million flight hours in more than 60 countries. Trainer customers include Emirates, Lufthansa, and the U.S. Air Force.
'The Ultimate Training System'
On the high end of the prop trainer spectrum is the PC-21, described by its Swiss manufacturer Pilatus Aircraft as “the ultimate training system.” Aimed primarily at the next generation of military pilots--the PC-21 even has an ejection seat--the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68B turbine-powered single is billed as a money-saver: “On the PC-21,” Pilatus says, “pilots destined to fly fighter aircraft do not need to transition to jets until much later than those flying conventional trainer aircraft, reducing cost and training time... Pilatus significantly expanded the design and performance envelope to take this single-engine turboprop into an area that was, until now, exclusively the domain of jet trainer aircraft.”
A look at some training aircraft and the news surrounding them.