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Australia’s aviation industry is concerned as many grounded pilots are recruited by US airlines

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Concern for Australia’s aviation industry as grounded pilots are recruited by US airlines – and there are plenty of professionals willing to take the leap

  • As many as three regional US airlines have started to recruit Australian pilots
  • Aviation careers coach Kirsty Ferguson had 70 enquiries from Australian pilots
  • A key reason for leaving is due to the uncertainty in Australia and overseas travel
  • The US aviation market boom has also allowed for more opportunities for pilots
  • The potential lack of pilots has left the Australian aviation sector concerned
  • Captain Louise Pole said many pilot members don’t hold current qualifications
  • She said at a senate inquiry that Australian airlines will need to retrain pilots 










Aviation career coach Kirsty Ferguson

Aviation career coach Kirsty Ferguson

There are concerns for the Australian aviation industry as grounded pilots are starting to get recruitment offers from major airlines in the US, with many professionals willing to take the leap.

As many as three regional airlines in America have started to seek pilots in Australia due to the country’s aviation market revitalisation after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kirsty Ferguson, an aviation careers coach and the chief executive office of Pinstripe Solutions, confirmed to Daily Mail Australia she received more than 70 enquiries during August and September from Australians looking to make the jump to the US.

Ms Ferguson said Commut Air, GoJet and Sky West are three airlines that have started to accept applications from Australian candidates through the US government’s E-3 visa scheme.

The aviation careers coach said the E-3 visa allows Australian pilots who have an offer of employment to make the move and is valid for two years.

As many as three regional airlines in America have started to seek pilots in Australia due to the country's aviation market revitalisation after the Covid-19 pandemic

As many as three regional airlines in America have started to seek pilots in Australia due to the country’s aviation market revitalisation after the Covid-19 pandemic

During this time, pilots must obtain the US Federal Aviation Administration licence, fulfil all visa requirements, and only work at one of the airlines sponsoring them under the scheme.

Ms Ferguson noted that many pilots are looking to the US aviation market because of the uncertainty about international travel here at home. 

‘In aviation, you only recruit when you’re in gross. That’s usually the pattern,’ she said.

‘Because we’re not in gross, we’re in stall, the recruitment has stopped, and we are still unsure as to when our international borders will be fully open and everything will come back to normal.’

Ms Ferguson noted that many pilots are looking to the US aviation market because of the uncertainty about international travel here at home

Ms Ferguson noted that many pilots are looking to the US aviation market because of the uncertainty about international travel here at home

Ms Ferguson mentioned that airlines will rehire their furloughed pilots before they recruit, which is another reason for pilots looking to seek overseas roles.  

‘Because of the uncertainty and the US market has ramped up more quickly, there are more opportunities to get current again because a lot of them [pilots] haven’t flown for 18 months,’ Ms Ferguson said.

The potential lack of pilots has left the Australian aviation sector concerned about how it will restart the recovery process after the pandemic.

Ms Ferguson noted that many pilots are looking to the US aviation market due to the uncertainty in Australia and when the industry will begin recruiting again

Ms Ferguson noted that many pilots are looking to the US aviation market due to the uncertainty in Australia and when the industry will begin recruiting again 

Australia has currently fallen behind other countries in flight levels, with only 26 per cent of flights returned to the level seen before the pandemic, compared to 70 per cent seen globally.

Last week, Captain Louise Pole, president of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, spoke at a Senate inquiry into the future of the aviation industry in relation to Covid-19.

Ms Pole said many pilot members no longer have current qualifications to fly, and the airlines in Australia will need to give pilots re-training.

‘Up to 25 per cent of our pilot members are no longer current and are without recent experience that is required to maintain the licences,’ she said.

‘What will happen is that the demand will return and the airlines will be keen to bale to assist with that demand, but they won’t be able to train fast.’

Boeing alerted earlier in the year that the global aviation industry would have 600,000 fewer pilots by 2040 if current trends remain.

Australian airlines indicated that international flights could recommence before Christmas.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said international flights with the carrier would begin once Australia reaches the 80 per cent vaccination target, which is expected to be in December.

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