Ask an expert: Pilot and Technician Outlook explained

From Boeing:

This summer, Boeing released its Pilot and Technician Outlook (PTO)– a 20-year forecast of global demand for new aviation personnel, including pilots, technicians and cabin crew.The PTO is developed, refined and published each year by Global Services’ Strategy team in partnership with various stakeholders and subject matter experts across the enterprise – but there’s much more to it than updating numbers every 12 months.To better understand what goes in to creating the outlook, Boeing asked Tina Lewis, a senior manager in Global Services Strategy and one of the architects of the PTO, to explain how the report is generated, the importance of the data, and how it is used within Boeing and externally.Global Services Strategy senior managers Tina Lewis (right) and Erin Lombardi discuss the recently released Pilot and Technician Outlook. Lewis was one of several Global Services teammates who created the 20-year forecast for new aviation personnel. (Boeing/Nate Hulings photo)Tell us about the team that puts together the Pilot and Technician Outlook (PTO). The PTO is a joint effort between our Strategy team, the Global Services Training Solutions business, and subject matter experts in Commercial Airplanes and Global Services Sales and Marketing. We also collaborate with former and current pilots as well as mechanics to harvest customer insights and expertise. Working together, we identify changing industry requirements, evolving market trends, and the competitive landscape. We also use external industry research, leveraging benchmarks and data analysis to build out robust forecast assumptions.Why does Boeing produce this outlook and who uses the data?For more than two decades, the PTO has been the aviation industry’s leading forecast in global commercial personnel demand – providing airlines, suppliers and the wider aviation community a resource to track the evolution of market trends over a 20-year period.

  • Within Boeing, the PTO is shared broadly to support market shaping. We also use the forecasts to aid in developing long-range business plans and influencing our growth strategy. 
  • Externally, the PTO helps build confidence with industry stakeholders and constituents. We also share our data with government agencies including the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), regulators, and airline customers to help with their own growth strategies.

Maintenance Technician training is a critical component to keeping the global commercial fleet flying. (Boeing photo)How does Boeing determine data and trends that are published in the forecast? When developing the PTO, we consider what is currently happening in the market in terms of regulatory changes, as well as the demand for future aircraft. 

  • Fleet growth and natural attrition play a role in determining future demand for pilots, technicians and cabin crew. 
  • For pilots, we also look at pilot movement to larger airplanes and from first officer to captain ranks. Technician demand also factors in airplane age and utilization, while cabin crew forecasting considers regulatory requirements and cabin configurations. 

We also create more detailed training and simulator market forecasts for our internal stakeholders to aid resource and investment planning. This includes outlooks for services such as such as pilot provisioning — or what many see as “pilot for hire” — as well as forecast demand for new simulators, simulator data packages, hardware and support.What data sources or metrics inform the outlook? The Commercial Market Outlook is the main data source for our outlook. But before we get to modeling, we use primary and secondary research to collect data that helps shape our assumptions. 

  • Many of our colleagues pass along firsthand information from industry stakeholders based on conversations at events like EAA Airventure Oshkosh and the World Airline Training Symposium. 
  • Our team also uses third-party publications and media for secondary insights into personnel challenges and shortages that validates much of the primary research.

What challenges or limitations do you encounter when forecasting?One of our biggest challenges is the availability of data. Information for some regions is not easily accessible. This makes it difficult to perform the right checks and balances against our forecast. We forecast future demand and not the current supply of personnel. We’ve developed viewpoints on the supply side using readily available U.S. data and other information shared directly from our stakeholders. Yet for other regions, it can be much more difficult to acquire credible data sources to validate our assumptions.By Nate Hulings, Courtney Jobe