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MP-Report

Pilot shortage flying high

Recently, I spoke with local COPA members at the Kelowna Flying Club. 

COPA, the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, has more than 200 regional and local chapters and represents close to 16,000 members in every province and territory as the recognized voice of general aviation in Canada.

At the meeting we discussed a number of general aviation issues to include the status of pilot training in Canada. There was an overwhelming consensus that there is a need for better support for our flight training schools and student pilots to increase pilot production.

I indicated I had tabled private members motion M-177, which comes before the House of Commons in October, and asks the Standing Committee on Transport to review the growing problem of pilot shortage in the Canadian aviation industry.

As COPA members have indicated, half of Canada’s flight operators state that finding qualified pilots is a significant challenge, an assertion confirmed by the findings of Suzanne Kearns, associate professor of Aviation at the University of Waterloo.

At current pilot production rates it is estimated that Canada will be short nearly 3,000 pilots by 2025 and about 6,000 by 2036.

Adding to the problem, the International Civil Aviation Organization estimates that on a global scale, 80 per cent of the 620,000 new pilots needed to sustain expected growth in passenger traffic by 2036 have yet to begin training.

If finding qualified pilots is a challenge, finding qualified instructors is equally challenging as more experienced pilots are being snapped up by commercial airlines.

For local operators the effect is immediate. As noted by the BC Aviation Council, one local company has had to hire and train the equivalent of 100 per cent of its pilot workforce in less than a year.  Not only is this a costly endeavour, it creates the additional problem of a pool of less experienced pilots.

To try to fill the gap, operators are actively recruiting internationally, but are running headlong into immigration issues that make hiring outside Canada an economic impossibility.

As for those people who are interested in becoming pilots, traditional pathway in Canada involves earning licences and ratings that cost approximately $75,000 and twice that if combined with a degree or diploma from a post secondary institution.  It’s a financial burden many cannot afford.

These are only a few of the issues facing the aviation industry which need to be addressed and I am hopeful that the committee review will result in robust recommendations to the government of Canada.

Whether by land, sea, or air, the safe and efficient movement of goods and people is essential for the growth of the economy and we must support the general aviation industry in recognition of its importance to local and regional economies.

I want to thank local members of COPA for speaking with me and look forward to working with my caucus and opposition colleagues this fall to find ways to alleviate the challenges being faced in this vital sector.

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About the Author

Stephen Fuhr was born in Edmonton, AB and grew up in Kamloops, BC. He is a former CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force.

After serving with distinction for 20 years, Stephen retired from the Canadian Forces in 2009 with the rank of Major. He joined his family’s Kelowna-based company, SkyTrac Systems, which develops aviation communication and tracking equipment. As CEO and Director of Business Development, he led the company to financial success in a challenging economic climate.

In 2012, Stephen left the company to pursue his first love of flying.

With growing interest in politics and a desire to serve his country again, Stephen ran for office in the 2015 election.

Today, he proudly serves as the Member of Parliament for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding. 



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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