With airlines adding to their fleets, the world will need some 460,000 new pilots over the next two decades, Boeing says—and that could mean airlines hiring less-qualified people. Some 69,000 pilots will be needed in North America, while the Asia-Pacific region will need 185,000, according to the report. "If the industry is stretched pretty thin ... that can result in someone getting into the system that maybe isn't really the right person to be a pilot," says an FAA official.
Indeed, the shortage is already posing a problem for China, India, and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, according to Boeing, causing "delays and operational interruptions." Meanwhile, the US is facing an upcoming surge in retirements, and the FAA has tightened requirements for becoming a first officer from 250 hours of flying time to 1,500 hours, which could make it tougher for airlines to find qualified applicants. On top of all that, it's "very expensive" for recent grads to get into flying, notes a Boeing rep. Regional airlines are likely to be hit first, the AP reports.