WOMEN remain a great untapped resource in the aviation industry as the sector enters an era of significant demand for pilots and technicians, a senior executive with US aerospace giant Boeing believes.
Increasing middle incomes in emerging economies and the rise of low-cost carriers is helping to drive an increasing global demand for pilots and aviation technical staff, opening up substantial opportunities for women and young people to join the industry.
The US plane-maker predicts the world will need 617,000 new commercial airline pilots, 679,000 new maintenance technicians and 814,000 new cabin crew to fly and maintain the global fleet to 2035.
“Fifty percent of demand is untapped in the female population,’’ Boeing Flight Services vice president Sherry Carbary said during a recent visit to a flight training facility in Brisbane, Australia. “I can only speak for the US, because that’s where the numbers are solid, but only 6 per cent of pilots are women and three per cent of the technicians are women.
“And if you assume it’s about the same, if not even worse in the rest of the world, you’ve got a lot of opportunity for women to help fill the need.’’
Carbary is something of a role model herself. She leads la global operation of more than 1200 employees and is responsible for pilot, technician and cabin safety training, and simulator services across 15 training campuses on six continents. Other roles have included vice president of strategic management with Boeing Commercial Airplanes as well as the company’s business director and deputy vice president of international sales.
She is optimistic that the increasing technological sophistication of aircraft and the complex software they employ is making aviation more attractive not just to women but young people in general.
The industry lost some of its lustre for the younger generation with the tech boom and the emergence of companies such as Microsoft and Amazon.
"Everyone was getting worried that all the kids were going to go in that direction,’’ she said. “A lot of them did but I think then you have the advent of the 787 and the A350 — these highly technologically-advanced airplanes — and the excitement around it and the growth of the market. I mean, you’ve got a job for life.
“So I think we’re pulling people back into it (aviation) and as long as that continues I’m not too worried.’’
From the perspective of tapping into the potential of women, Carbary said there were already signs of an increasing number of women in classrooms.
She said that historically aviation had been a male-dominated industry and “there was that macho thing to be a pilot”.
“And that’s changing,’’ she said. “Like you said, it’s becoming much more software-oriented, the airlines have been much more accommodating to women to get them to join and I think we’ll see that continue. It’s exciting.’’
A regional breakdown of the Boeing forecast shows the Asia-Pacific will lead the industry with the need for 248,000 new pilots and 268,000 new technicians over the two decades.
This will include 111,000 pilots and 119,000 technicians in China while Southeast Asia will require 62,000 pilots and 67,000 technicians.
The forecast sees 13,000 pilots and 17,000 technicians needed in Oceania, 21,000 pilots and 26,000 technicians in Northeast Asia and 41,000 pilots and 39,000 technicians in South Asia.
This compares with 112,000 pilots and 127,000 technicians in North America, 104,000 pilots and 118,000 technicians in Europe and 58,000 pilots and 66,000 technicians in the Middle East.
Carbary said the pilot and technician outlooks were accurate over a 20 -year period but conceded it was harder to predict “the ins and outs of the cycles and retirements’’ in the shorter term.
But she believes this a great time to look at becoming a pilot or a maintenance technician.
“It’s a great career,’’ she said. “It’s a high-tech industry, you’re getting to travel the world and work on an amazing airplane. There should be all kinds of people excited about it, especially in these emerging economies that have never been exposed to this kind of technology and capability before.
“Who wouldn’t want to be in aviation?”
Steve Creedy travelled to Brisbane courtesy of Boeing.