This opinion piece was written by Alexis David Fafard, LL.L., J.D., Ottawa Aviation Services. The opinion of the author does not necessarily correspond with that of the editorial team. Want your opinion to be featured on AeroTime? Send us a line at editor@aerotime.aero.


2017 was the safest year in the aviation history, thanks to the multiple high-tech and engineering advancements ensuring the fundamental key element that safety represents in any commercial flights. We, however, too often take for granted the excellent service provided by the professionals operating these complex flying machines.

There are enormous quantity of infrastructure (facilities, simulators, aircraft, etc.), continuous efforts and, even, personal sacrifices implicated in the creation of a proficient airline pilot. Indeed, there is not really a “final product” in the flight training industry. “Being a competent commercial pilot” is a continuous examination process, it is a profession demanding a high level of professionalism and commitment. Pilot candidates and professional airline pilots must learn and process the information fast, very fast.

Some would be afraid by this “professional commitment”. Some would not, as their passion for flying would prevail before anything else. However, our commercial pilot population is currently in peril and high demand, and we must attract more individuals who will operate the sophisticated aircraft of the future. “We Need More Pilots To Fly Us” as I wrote before the Holidays 2017-2018, and now I will try to elaborate my strategies that our industry could rely on to counter the shortage. I called this the “D.A.T.U.S. Plan” standing for Data-Assistance-Technology-Unmanned-Seasonal. Let me explain.

A. Pilot Population Data Collection

1. Pilot Candidates – on an individual basis

Unfortunately, not everybody has the necessary aptitudes and character to become an airline pilot. It demands a tremendous amount of self-discipline and responsibility with some boldness to conduct an intense flight training program and pursue an airline career. While pilots are not necessary geniuses, idiots and hot heads usually do not fly for long. Flight Training Units (“FTUs”) do not retain such individuals for safety and liabilities reasons. The shortage is so important that no time, nor resources shall be wasted. A sustainable data collection process that would constantly analyse the pilot candidates’ aptitudes, whether academic or behavioural, should be put into place in any FTU to measure the needs and progress of the pilot candidates during his/her training. Upon completion of the flight training, the FTUs and air carriers could analyse the profile of the pilot candidates with the data collected and see in which environment the trainee will be suitable to start his/her career.

2. Flight Training Units–Air Carriers–Transport Canada – on a pancanadian basis

To better follow the industry’s needs and trends, a continuous and transparent data collection process on the pilot population shall be directed to all FTUs and air carriers (CAR 703, CAR 704) on a national scale. At the moment, there is no real tangible data collection process implemented on which the government (Transport Canada), the FTUs, and the air carriers could rely to better assess and analyse our national pilot employment reality. How useful would it be for this tripartite group to know how many flight instructors with 500 flight hours in 2017 got hired by the air carriers or how many captains in a tier 3 company have been hired as first officers for a tier 1 airline. This continuous data collection on the pilot population would allow the tripartite group to better understand the traditional pilot career path “flight instructor – tier 3 – tier 2 – tier 1”.