Good morning, and thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today to discuss the challenges faced by Canadian flight schools in meeting the needs of the Canadian aviation industry.
As you know, I'm here representing the Air Transport Association of Canada, or ATAC for short. Since 1934, ATAC has been the national association for commercial aviation in Canada. We're the voice of almost 200 member companies engaged in all kinds of commercial aviation all across Canada. That includes 50 flight training organizations that, together, deliver about 80% of all commercial pilot licences issued in Canada.
The recommendations I have [Technical difficulty 8:49:46 - 9:36:48—witnesses' briefs taken as read—Editor]
ATAC welcomes this opportunity to present recommendations to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. The recommendations presented here fall into four broad categories:
1) Support student pilots
2) Support flight schools
3) Support research
4) Support outreach
This document also contains background information on topics such becoming a pilot, and the typical pilot career path.
Founded in 1934, the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) serves as Canada's national trade association for commercial aviation and flight training industries, as well as aviation industry suppliers. Our membership is comprised of about 200 companies engaged in commercial aviation all across the country, including 50 flight training schools that together deliver approximately 80% of all commercial pilot licenses issued in Canada.
Representing ATAC on flight training and labour market issues, including the current pilot shortage, is Darren Buss. Darren has an airline transport pilot license and 13 years experience as a professional pilot. He holds the title of Vice President at ATAC, and also sits on the board of directors at the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace (CCAA). Since graduating from the Aviation and Flight Technology program at Seneca College in 2005 he has flown for air operators in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, steadily gaining responsibilities as a pilot, training pilot, and manager. Darren holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematical Science (specializing in Computer Science) from McMaster University, where he also studied Materials Engineering, and previously worked as a software developer.
1. Implement Government Backed Student Loans for Flight Training [Support Students]:
Lack of financing is the most often cited reason why people discontinue flight training or choose not to pursue it at all. Making financing available would bring more people into aviation, and also give policy-makers a tool to incentivize people into jobs where they are most needed, such as flight instruction and medevac. A similar incentive program already exists for medical personnel working in remote areas.
ATAC is consulting with commercial banks to create a student loan product for pilots. It is clear that banks are not willing to do this unless the loans are backed by government. Fortunately, a relatively small investment by government would result in a nation-wide student loan program for pilots that could then be used to incentivise pilots into jobs where they are desperately needed. ATAC estimates that less than $5 million per year, over a 10-year program, would be sufficient to do this. This is based on the following:
• 600 commercial pilots trained annually (domestic only)
• Worst case, all those pilots borrow the full cost of training ($75,000)
• 600 pilots/year x $75,000/pilot = $45 million/year borrowed from bank
• Modelled loan default rate is 10%, therefore approximately $4.5 million/year goes to default
2. Approve the Proposal to extend SWILP to Pilot Training [Support Students]:
Student Work Integrated Learning (SWILP) is an excellent skill development program that has helped thousands of students acquire work-related skills. A proposal has been made to extend the applicability of this program to include pilots wishing to become flight instructors or floatplane pilots. This would increase the number of available flight instructors and therefore Canada’s capacity to train more pilots. This proposal has received wide praise from both industry and government, but it has not yet been implemented.
3. Help Flight Schools Invest in New Technology and Infrastructure [Support Flight Schools]:
The typical Canadian flight school operates aircraft that are older than the pilots who fly them. Newer aircraft are often quieter and more fuel-efficient than older aircraft. They are also more similar to the modern transport aircraft that student pilots will be expected to operate when they join the workforce, which makes them more effective trainers. Simulators are another game-changing technology that is in short supply at most flight schools due to the fact their cost is similar to a new aircraft.
New single-engine training aircraft typically cost around $400,000 USD. Multi-engine trainers typically start around $700,000 USD. Certified flight training devices (FTDs), commonly called simulators, start at about $300,000 USD for a single-engine aircraft and go up to several million for larger aircraft. Ideally, flight schools operate 7 single-engine aircraft for every multi-engine aircraft, and as many simulators as they can afford and have the space for. These are huge capital expenses for small businesses that operate on very tight margins.
A government program of matching spending on eligible purchases including aircraft, simulators, and facilities expansion (for simulators) would almost immediately increase capacity to train new pilots by enabling flight schools to make these critical investments. Giving preference to aircraft manufactured in Canada would also stimulate aerospace manufacturing in Canada. For example, the government program could offer $1 for every $1 spent by a flight school on aircraft and simulators built outside of Canada, and $1.20 for every $1 spent on products manufactured in Canada.
As a rule of thumb, every aircraft added to a flight school’s fleet allows that school to train an additional 7 pilots per year.
4. Establish Approved Training Organizations (ATO) [Support Students & Flight Schools]:
The Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) are the regulatory foundation for all aviation activities in Canada. They have remained largely unchanged since they were introduced in 1996. Since then, many things have changed, including advancements in simulator technology and a shift towards evidence and competency-based training techniques. The wording of the CARs, rooted in the thinking of the early 1990’s, effectively prevents these advances from being used in ab-initio flight training only because they were not envisioned CARs were written. The CARAC process for changing the CARs is slow and difficult, but there is another way.
Aviation Training Organizations (ATO) is a framework used in other jurisdictions around the world that allows flight schools to demonstrate compliance with the desired result of the regulations using a different means of achieving it. For example, if the regulations state that an applicant for a private pilot license shall have completed a minimum of 45 hours of flight training, including a maximum of 5 hours in an approved simulator, an ATO might demonstrate that completing 20 of the 45 hours in an approved simulator produces pilots that are at least as competent. Using this approved syllabus, the ATO can conduct training that produces better pilots, less noise and less pollution, often at lower cost. ATO trained pilots must meet the same standards and pass the same assessments as their non-ATO counterparts. ATO may also open the door to using evidence and competency-based techniques in ab-initio training, which would further improve efficiency.
ATAC has been working with Transport Canada on an ATO framework for several years. Every year we hear that it is close to being ready. ATAC believes it would be in the best interest of the general public as well as pilots and the aviation industry for a carefully designed ATO framework to be approved as soon as possible.
5. Support Research Activities [Support Research]:
Good data drives good decisions. Rigorous study of what prevents people, particularly those from underrepresented groups such as women and indigenous people, from choosing careers in aviation would be helpful in making decisions on the best way to allocate funding.
ATAC recommends that the government allocate resources, either internally or through an organization such as the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace (CCAA), to complete such a study.
6. Support Outreach Activities [Support Outreach]:
Any long-term solution to the current labour market shortage must include outreach to people not currently involved in the aviation industry. This includes youth, workers from other industries displaced by layoffs or wishing to change career, and people outside of Canada who may wish to immigrate.
ATAC recommends that the government make funding available to associations, such as ATAC, who are in a position to organize outreach events across Canada and internationally.
Aviation Labour Shortage
Canada faces a critical shortage of pilots and demand is expected to grow for the foreseeable future. Industry must increase annual domestic flight training output approximately 50% to meet the expected demand by 2025. Traditional recruiting methods are not sufficient; we must attract and retain a broader section of eligible workers. Only 7% of pilots are female. Fewer are aboriginal. Lack of access to financing for initial training costs is a major barrier for many.
Professional pilot training typically costs about $75,000. Little or no financing (government or otherwise) is available to cover this cost. Access to financing would bring more people into aviation, and enable incentive programs for high demand jobs.
Becoming a Pilot
One of several paths to becoming a professional aeroplane pilot in Canada is by enrolling in an integrated Commercial Pilot License – Aeroplane/Instrument Rating (CPL(A)/IR) integrated course at a Transport Canada certified flight school. These courses last between 9 and 36 months, with the typical duration being 18 months. They must include at least 400 hours of ground school instruction, and 190 hours of flight time, all of which must also meet a number of sub requirements. Students in an integrated program must successfully complete the knowledge requirements and pass flight tests for the Private Pilot License (PPL), Commercial Pilot License (CPL), multi-engine class rating, and the Group 1 Instrument Rating. Upon completion the student will be qualified to operate single pilot multi-engine aeroplanes in commercial air services, however, with no work experience job prospects are limited. Cost for this training varies, but $75,000 is representative.
The most common way for new commercial pilots to gain experience is to become flight instructors. To become a flight instructor, the new commercial pilot must complete an additional 30 hours of flight time and 25 hours of ground instruction. This additional training typically costs about $10,000.
The highest license a pilot can obtain is the Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), which has historically been required to obtain employment at a regional or national airline. The requirements of the ATPL are typically met in the course of working as a pilot in the early part of one’s career. These include passing two written exams, and completing 1500 hours of flight time. With an ATPL in hand, a pilot’s career is limited only by his or her ability and aspirations.
The ‘Typical’ Pilot Career Path
New commercial airplane pilots today have three choices when it comes to getting their first job:
1. Become a flight instructor
2. Work for an air operator in a remote area. In the current labour market these operators are desperate for pilots, however, many have insurance or contractual requirements that prevent them from hiring pilots with less than a minimum number of hours (often 500 hours). Some remote operators may also require a float rating at a cost of about $10,000.
3. Direct-entry first officer with a regional airline. Some regional airlines now have partnerships with select flight schools where a fixed number of the top graduating students are offered direct-entry flying positions with that airline. This is a recent change made necessary by the current labour shortage.
Madame chair, members of the committee, it is a pleasure to appear before you again today to speak to an area of growing concern to many of the communities our airports serve -- a shortage of qualified commercial pilots, which is leading to reliability problems on important regional air routes. This is the aspect of flight schools that I will focus my comments on.
I am president of the Canadian Airports Council, which represents 54 airport operators, including 25 of the 26 NAS airports and 29 operators of regional airports.
It goes without saying that airports don’t hire pilots, nor do they determine what air services are operated from which communities. In the deregulated air transport sector we have had since the 1980s, these are decisions made by private airlines, including large network carriers and their regional affiliates but also a dozen or so independent regional air carriers. And most air routes are not subsidized.
This context is important, because communities really are vulnerable to market conditions and the decisions made by air carriers on whether they will fly to their community, how often, and for how much.
Canada’s airports make up a system of independent, but interdependent airports. An aircraft that takes off from Toronto Pearson or YVR has to land somewhere, and so problems for one group of airports impact many others. That being said, the pilot shortage is being most acutely felt in Canada’s regional air service markets throughout the country. British Columbia, New Brunswick, northern Ontario are just three regions that are being impacted, with regularly scheduled flights being cancelled often enough that travellers looking to buy a ticket for one of these routes have to ask themselves just how badly they need to get where they are going on time.
I’ll give you an example of this. Allen Dillon, a frequent flyer and CEO of a cyber security firm in New Brunswick was recently profiled by the CBC. He takes more than 100 flights a year and now has to catch much earlier flights just to ensure he can make his meetings on time because he is finding a major delay or cancellation about 40% of the time. It’s like shutting down a major highway on a regular, but unpredictable basis.
This is a serious concern. Airlines make service decisions based on the financial strength of a given route. If travellers lose confidence in a route and traveller numbers fall, how long does that route stay around?
The shortage of pilots is not unique to Canada, it’s a global concern and Canada competes in a global market for talent. And the concern is not just limited to pilots either. According to the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace labour market report released in the spring, of an aviation sector that employs about 154,000 people today, some 55,000 new workers will be required in this sector by 2025, including other skilled workers like maintenance technicians and air traffic controllers. Based on current educational program capacity, only a quarter of that demand will be filled by domestically trained graduates.
In terms of pilots specifically, the labour market report suggests Canada will need about 7,300 pilots by 2025. We’re only producing about 1,200 new pilots a year and nearly half of these are international students who typically return to their country of origin. Only 70% of these new pilots even stay in the industry. These factors taken together mean we’re only really producing about 500 new pilots a year, which will lead to a shortage of about 3,000 pilots by 2025.
Moreover, our colleagues in the regional air carrier community are concerned that proposed regulatory changes to air crew duty times will significantly add to the shortfall.
When we consider the impact that a shortage of pilots is already having on air service in some communities, this future is a big concern, which is why this study is timely.
There are plenty of ideas on how to fix this, including more financial support options for prospective students, changes to how these programs are viewed vis a vis financial support by government, creating better options for foreign students who may want to stay to pursue an aviation career in Canada, and improving access to simulators and other technological tools. But we will leave it the experts in these fields to weigh in on those ideas, as I do want to address the second part of the committee’s study -- whether the infrastructure available to flight schools meets the needs of the schools and the communities where they are located.
I’ve spoken with you about the financial challenges faced by small regional airports, where the Airports Capital Assistance Program is the only infrastructure investment fund available for safety and security related projects, and its funding is limited to about $38 million a year. This is an important program, but funding is insufficient for the airports already eligible, which doesn’t include general aviation airports without commercial service.
Flight schools are located throughout Canada, at both commercial and general aviation airports. Some of these are located in urban areas, where they are close to prospective students but also close to residential communities, homes and schools.
Flight schools by their nature involve a lot of activity close to the base airport, including take offs, landings and rotations. This activity contributes to the concern of residents in some communities around aircraft noise.
As this committee heard recently, aircraft noise in residential communities near airports is a complex issue to manage, and one that is best dealt with on the ground in the community, as it is a very local issue. A flight school may be a concern for some airports with unhappy residents. Another airport with a different community configuration may welcome them with open arms.
I’m happy to take any questions the committee may have.
We would like to thank the committee for including the Northern Air Transport Association on this important study of flight training resources in Canada.
NATA was formed over forty years ago to support the economic development of northern and remote Canada. Northern operators have always faced unique challenges that are very different than what is experienced in southern Canadian aviation. The attraction, recruitment and retention of adequate flight crew including maintenance personnel has been an ongoing challenge.
The traditional northern aviation labour market model was southern trained Canadian pilots, would seek aviation jobs in Canada’s north. Often this was seasonal employment requiring aviation workers to return or be replaced. There was an annual flight crew and maintenance personnel production level that usually provided a surplus of labour that developed a worker over a 2-5 years of work experience to become industry competent. There was a challenge to retain those now skilled workers. This challenge is increasing for reasons that are well known.
Northern and remote operators predominately use turbine engine equipped aircraft, often operating into short, unpaved airstrips. There are also operators offering air service with what would be considered traditional float or ski equipped aircraft. Examples of specialized operations including medivac, fire fighting, air survey. To fly these missions, pilots need to be highly skilled, with specific mission competencies. Few flight schools in Canada provide this type of preparatory training for northern operational realities.
NATA operator members are reporting it is taking longer to provide the training necessary for entry level new hire pilots to meet the proficiency requirements for pilots to be legal flight crew in accordance with the Canadian Aviation Regulations. Operators are raising concerns regarding the lack of basic knowledge and skills of new hires that should have been covered in commercial pilot flight training.
The new reality is flight instructors and pilot examiners have reduced operational and instructional experience and NATA wants to work with the regulator to find solutions. For instance, the current regulations concerning flight training are too restrictive. There are more than enough flight training units in Canada, but there is a lack of instructors with the applicable experience because it is difficult for current, or retired pilots to become involved in a flight training program.
It is important to note that while there is a national commercial pilot licensing standard, there is no national commercial pilot training standard. This allows for flexibility in training delivery to the licensing standard. NATA believes there should be sector specific standards and any occupational standards that help improve the aviation worker competencies should be made available to the entire industry and should be supported by the regulator. There should be incentive funding for companies to support industry use of occupational standards to develop competency-based training.
Most training in Canada is focused on producing pilots for southern flying jobs. There are very successful programs in Southern Canada that are streaming pilot graduates into direct entry pilot positions. Due to the changing operational environment, and specialized skill sets this does not work for northern and remote operators.
To insure a competent workforce, many air operators-members are developing partnerships with flight training providers as well as sponsoring selected personnel for career development. For instance, in Whitehorse, a NATA air operator member also offers a full-service flight training with an aviation college diploma program. Having students train in proximity of real air operations needs better recognition of crediting aviation experience. This includes partnership with northern operators offering mentoring and workplace training support for northern based students and workers.
On October 2, 2018 at the Transport Canada Civil Aviation Labour Shortages Forum, the Minister of Transport addressed the challenge of attracting the next generation of aviation workers, especially non-traditional workforce groups such as females, indigenous and other under represented visible minorities. While the forum focused primarily on southern Canada flight crew shortages and solutions, it is important to emphasize; Northern and remote aviation stakeholders are experiencing a shortage of personnel for all aviation related occupations. However, there are various barriers that need to be considered to develop a program that would be successful in attracting, training and retaining northern youth for aviation related occupations.
Any skill development program needs to be sensitive to geographical and cultural realities. It is problematic for students to have to leave their home and community to go to a school far away for a long period of time. There is an opportunity for more Industry sponsored federally funded On the Job mentoring and training, customized for specific cultural needs and company specific skill development requirements.
The overriding concern is the access to vocational tuition funding.
The federal government should change tuition tax deductibility rules to be more inclusive of aviation flying, technical skills upgrade training and work experience. Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) tax deduction status should be revised to offer more incentive to the contributor.
There needs to be funding programs to encourage employers to establish in company mentoring program and sponsor local public-school aviation career awareness initiatives. There are so many excellent programs that have been developed with federal funding but are under utilized.
Attached to this Written Brief, is NATA Resolution 2018-5- outlining the need for a northern and remote focused aviation labour skills committee, as well, included is a summary and reference document to three territorial labour market analysis supporting the comments made in this submission. The limited labour needs information for flight crew identifies the need for more northern and remote aviation sector specific demographic analysis.
In conclusion, NATA’s 43rd northern and remote aviation conference is taking place April 28-May 1, 2019 in Yellowknife.
On behalf of the Northern Air Transport Association I would like to invite the committee to attend our conference to continue this important discussion on aviation labour-skills development.
Certainly. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good morning, everyone.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear today. I am Dan Adamus. I'm the ALPA Canada president for the Air Line Pilots Association, International, and I've been a commercial pilot for 35 years.
ALPA represents 61,000 professional pilots in Canada and the United States. I appreciate the opportunity to provide comment for the committee's study of the challenges facing flight schools in Canada.
ALPA is the largest non-governmental aviation safety and security organization in the world. In Canada, ALPA represents 5,500 pilots who fly for 12 airlines. Our pilots fly aircraft that carry both passengers and cargo.
I would like to offer you some insight today from the perspective of a professional pilot and as someone who has first-hand experience in a profession and industry that has changed considerably in the last number of decades, especially since deregulation of the airline industry in the late 1980s.
Since deregulation, pilot salaries have declined, and that is the primary reason we are now facing a pilot shortage. Make no mistake about it: this is Economics 101. If you pay them, they will come.
Being a pilot was once considered a lucrative job, but that has fallen by the wayside. Today, Canadian pilots, on average, are lagging behind their U.S. counterparts in pay by at least 20%. In addition, foreign carriers are attracting Canadian pilots with generous compensation packages. We estimate that well over 1,000 Canadian pilots are overseas flying with foreign airlines.
Furthermore, becoming a commercial pilot no longer has the same appeal that it had in the 1970s and 1980s, and we therefore need to start thinking outside the box. Recruiting young aviators is important, but equally important is ensuring a steady supply of flight instructors, as you have heard from other presenters.
Being a flight instructor is considered an entry-level job. As such, there is little incentive to remain teaching any longer than necessary, thus creating an issue for flight schools and, moreover, the industry.
Why is this? It's tied to the way pilots are paid: the bigger the plane, the bigger the pay. Seniority dictates who gets to fly the bigger airplanes, and seniority is not transferable among airlines.
For these reasons, flight instructors choose to leave at the first opportunity, to establish their position on a seniority list to progress to the larger aircraft.
To entice flight instructors to stay longer, we would suggest that the aviation industry align itself with other industries and recognize years of service and experience for pay purposes. Doing this would mean that flight instructor time would count toward their pay level if or when they decide to go to the airlines. This could also work in reverse, whereby a pilot late in their career may wish to finish their last few years as a flight instructor.
While I recognize this is a significant departure from the current practice and would require all stakeholders to buy in, it would help create a more stable and predictable career path for pilots and maintain Canada as a world leader in aviation.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.
Good morning, Madam Chair and committee members. Thank you very much for the invitation to appear.
The pilot shortage, as we've heard, affects flight schools and the industry as a whole. It also even affects Transport Canada, as it has difficulties attracting pilots to become inspectors.
When someone considers a career in aviation, they have to look at the investment of time and money to become qualified and then at what the return on that investment is going to be. Simply put, an investment in aviation is seen as a risky investment. There are other careers to chose from that may require a similar investment, but the return on that investment is much more certain.
I would say the pinnacle of the industry would be to become a captain flying the largest airplane at the biggest airline, and of course making the most money. For a person entering the industry, the chances of getting to that pinnacle of the industry are virtually nil. A very small percentage of people get there.
You have to look at what the next best-case scenario would be for someone joining the industry. That would be flying at a major airline, but that also comes with some downsides, which are significant. The first one is that your career hinges on your medical condition. If you get sick or have a problem, then you're done, and you have to find a new career.
The other parts are more lifestyle-related. As Captain Adamus mentioned, your schedule is based on seniority. If you do have seniority, you get to bid on the work you'd like and the time off you'd like. If you do not have seniority, you don't; you get the leftovers from the schedule. That adds to the challenge of planning your life outside of your work.
I'm not talking about safety here, but the hours of work are long and include early starts, late nights, flying through the night and crossing multiple time zones. It's not a healthy lifestyle. It's challenging enough to exercise regularly, eat well on the road and get the good sleep you need. Throwing in multiple nights away from home adds to the challenge of your life at home. When you're single and young, it doesn't matter, because you don't have the commitments and that's a little bit easier to take, but as you become older and start a family, those responsibilities make that even more difficult.
As we heard, starting out in the industry and getting training can cost a lot of money, up to $100,000. Your first job is either as a flight instructor or at a small airline to build hours and get experience so you can get that next job. One of my members laughed at me when I said the starting salary of a flight instructor is something near minimum wage, which is $30,000 a year. He didn't think it was that much, from his experience.
You're not working a 40-hour workweek in these starting jobs. You're paid by the hours you fly, generally, and the regulations allow you to work up to 72 hours a week, or up to 98, depending on which subpart you're working in. Again, putting safety aside, working those sorts of hours doesn't leave any time for life other than working and sleeping.
When you start out in the business, you're very vulnerable. You can't complain about anything with your employer. Financially you're vulnerable, as you need this job to pay the bills you've incurred. Your career is vulnerable, because you need to build these hours so you can carry on with your career. Your lack of experience makes you vulnerable to pressures to fly when you probably really shouldn't fly. Without that experience and confidence, you may not be able to say no and may not realize exactly how dangerous what you're being asked to do is.
Once you've accumulated that experience after a couple of years, you move up to your next job, the bigger airplane. It's not necessarily a step up in pay. You'll be going in at the bottom of that company's pay structure, so again, you may be going down to go up.
Then there's the traditional instability of the industry. Air operators come and go. When an air operator goes out of business and you've been there a few years, whatever seniority you've built up is gone, and when you go to the next operator, you're at the bottom of the list again.
There are some significant downsides to having a career as a pilot. There are upsides as well, but it seems that young people are weighing their options and choosing different careers that offer a similar economic reward but a better lifestyle. A couple of members of my association, who have a lot more experience in the industry than I do, summed it up like this to me: “The kids are smarter now than we were.”
Thank you very much for the invitation. I'm happy to answer any questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'd like to sincerely thank the committee members for the opportunity to speak to you all today and for your efforts on this important issue. Canada's air transport sector is vital to our economy and way of life, and yet the projected doubling of aircraft and flights internationally by 2036 creates a variety of both opportunities and challenges that can threaten to make the sector unsustainable.
Today I'll briefly introduce my background, and as my colleagues have stated much of the important background information already, I'll limit my comments to five key recommendations, which are outlined in more detail in the brief I've provided.
As a teenager, I was proud to be a Canadian air cadet in a program that provides free aviation education and flight training scholarships. The cadets program has provided a pathway for many young Canadians into aviation careers and is an important program for you to consider in your review.
I went on to earn my commercial pilot licence and multi-engine instrument ratings in both airplanes and helicopters, a college diploma in helicopter piloting, and my bachelor's and master's degrees in aviation disciplines. I then began working full time as an aviation university professor at the age of 24 and completed my Ph.D. while I was working full time. My Ph.D. is in education.
As an aviation professor, I teach undergraduate and graduate students in academic aviation topics, meaning not how to fly a plane but things like international aviation, safety management and aviation sustainability.
I conduct research. I've written four aviation books, including a book on competency-based education, and I hold leadership roles in several international aviation associations, primarily on issues associated with outreach and education.
My first recommendation is access to student loans for flight training costs.
Student loans do not cover flight expenses in most provinces. In a 2017 survey, aviation students reported that finances were the single most difficult part of pilot training programs, more than any of the knowledge or skill requirements. I know of many troubling stories: families mortgaging their home to support their child's education, students working full-time overnight shifts and sleeping in their cars to earn and save money, students dropping out only months before completion because they simply ran out of funds. In my opinion, affordable student loans for pilots would have the single greatest impact on the pilot supply issue.
My second recommendation is loan forgiveness for time served as a flight instructor or in northern and remote communities.
My colleagues have outlined the background of this issue, but if student pilots and northern communities cannot shoulder the expense of increasing the salaries for these positions, a loan forgiveness program could incentivize these professions without making them prohibitively expensive.
My third recommendation is that as only five to seven per cent of pilots are women and there is very little ethnic diversity in the field, pathways and incentives to support women and minorities in aviation careers would be very helpful. As a point of reference, the International Civil Aviation Organization held a global gender summit in August of this year, with a goal of reaching a fifty-fifty gender ratio in aviation by the year 2030. Equalizing the gender imbalance would have an immediate effect at ameliorating the supply issues.
My fourth recommendation is holistic and STEM-connected aviation education, beginning at the primary and secondary school levels.
Pilots are only one of several critical aviation professional groups that are experiencing a shortage. Maintenance professionals, air traffic controllers, airport managers, flight attendants and many others are in very high demand. I am the vice-chair of ICAO's Next Generation of Aviation Professionals program, which seeks to attract, educate and retain young professionals within aviation careers. We emphasize a holistic approach, meaning that we consider the entire range of professional groups that are experiencing shortages, rather than a profession-specific approach that looks at only pilots.
My final recommendation is exploration of competency-based training methodologies, which can improve the efficiency of ab initio or early pilot training, and regulatory credit for hours conducted in a flight simulation device toward the licensing criteria.
I just want to emphasize that the balance of resources within aviation has historically always been tipped toward the end of the pilot career pipeline. We haven't put the time, emphasis and research into investigating the challenges at the beginning of the pipeline.
Although meeting the needs of today is a challenge, it's also important to recognize that Canada has an opportunity to capitalize on the growth of the aviation sector and position itself as an international leader in this field. Canada is home to universities, manufacturers, operators and training organizations that are among the best in the world. Uniting these strengths under a national aviation innovation strategy could cement our standing as a country of chief importance in global aviation.
As somebody who represents the pilots you're talking about, there are some good days. I would submit to you that there's no better office in the world than the flight deck of an aircraft, but that's once you're up in the air and you're going. It's all the other stuff, and Mark outlined a good chunk of it. I didn't get into that; I knew that other witnesses were going to talk about it.
However, there are some challenges. It is not the profession that the general public likes to think it is, this glamorous job where you're making all kinds of money and laying over for 24 hours in an exotic city. That is not the case. It may have been in the seventies, but it's not like that anymore.
When young people are looking at a career choice, they look at the whole picture—the compensation package, the hours of work. When they compare it to other jobs out there, no longer is the pilot profession up there. It's down here, like everything else.
What I was submitting as an industry—and perhaps the government could help point the industry in this direction—is to change our pay models. The pay model we have right now is based on a seniority system, and Mark outlined this as well. If your company happens to go out of business and you have to start all over again and you have 20 years in the business, you're going back to year-one pay. There's no other industry that does that.
There's no predictability in our industry. There's no stability. We liken parents spending $100,000 for their child to take flight training as buying a $100,000 lottery ticket. They have no idea if there's going to be a return on the investment.
These are some of the things we wanted to outline to make sure that everybody is fully aware that this industry, the pilot profession, is not what it used to be.
I think what's important to understand from a foundational perspective is that our licensing and training models are based on probably the World War II era's understanding of educational theory and methodology. It's very much an hours-based approach. It's sometimes also called a “prescriptive” approach, meaning that the regulator makes a list and says that you need to spend 50 hours doing this, and then 15 hours doing this type of flying....
The challenge, now that we've learned more about adult education and also just training in general, is that sometimes students will have mastered something and then are forced to do it for 10 hours more because the regulation requires them to—so there's this inefficiency built into the system—whereas if we could have instruction that's more tailored to that individual's needs, they could say, “Okay, I've already become competent in this skill set and now I can apply those hours to something that I'm actually weak in and need that time in.”
I believe it was in 2009 that a panel was formed as the international Flight Crew Licensing and Training Panel. They started looking at this issue because they recognized that on a global scale, our global capacity to produce pilots was not going to be able to meet our global need for pilots. We can project that many years in advance, because airlines are placing orders for the airlines of the future, so we have a way of projecting how many pilots we're going to need.
Simply, we do not have the global capacity to do that, so they wanted to look at innovative ways, including competency-based training. We did not create it in aviation. It's very popular in the medical profession. There's quite a wide body of research to look at.
What it means, basically, is that we look at a professional pilot and we write down the knowledge, the skills and the attitude they need to do their job. This creates competency statements that are formed into profession-specific frameworks. ICAO has these competency frameworks through all the major aviation professions.
Competency-based training uses those competency statements to determine when a student is finished training. Instead of someone being done when they've reached 50 hours, they're done when they can actually competently demonstrate the knowledge, the skills and the attitude.
Again, shifting the focus away from hours and towards actual competence allows for a variety of advantages: more efficient training and a smaller footprint, and training that's much more targeted towards the actual skill set of the job. Historically, someone would say that you've finished your classroom training, but when you start your job, some senior guy walks down and says, “Hey, now forget everything you've learned in training, because I'm going to teach you how it's really done.” Well, that is a bad system. We should be able to align the training with the actual real-world needs that people require.
That competency framework created the multi-crew pilot licence, which is a licensing framework that's very popular in the Asia-Pacific region. That allows pilots to be trained from nothing to become a first officer in 18 months. There's a very heavy use of flight simulation devices. They teach them from day one to be an airline pilot.
Before I pass my time over to Mr. Graham, I would suggest as a takeaway that the industry in fact look at working with other industries. I'll give you an example.
Look at the marine sector as an example, where we have the same challenge with engineers who work in the engine rooms. When we look at captains of ships and pilots of airplanes—and the list goes on—we see there is a connection with respect to the broader issue in relation to human resources and the solutions that would attach to same, which may be consistent across the board.
It makes it easier for government, therefore, to put programs in place to fund when those issues are consistent under those very programs. Yes, there might be anomalies with respect to the specifics of the industry, but those can be fleshed out in that collaboration and therefore addressed, hopefully, within a broader program, versus cookie-cuttering or siloing different programs to individual sectors. I would encourage this to happen so that we're therefore able to put incentives in place.
We're able to also match capital investments with those interests, whether that be with municipalities, regions, provinces or sectors.
Third, there are mechanisms that we can put in place to become an enabler for recruitment, as well as retention and upgrades for the individuals who are already in the sector.
Last, you can look at coming here to us not just when being called as a witness, but also as an association that is coming to us in a more frequent manner, so that we can actually keep pace in that way with the needs you have.
I'm just putting that forward after listening for the past few hours to a lot of what I've heard, and in terms of a takeaway, that might in fact be available for you.
With that, David, you're all set.