Aviation & aerospace are integrated industries rapidly recovering from negative pandemic impacts, in re-emerging global demand for commercial aircraft., Leveraging regional strengths would create new economic activity, diversify a region’s industrial base, & build high-quality employment in less developed centres. Canada can stimulate aerospace growth – training pilots & aircraft engineers; refitting worldwide fleets; developing related avionics. Federal government dedication to new aerospace super-clusters ensures dynamic growth & expanded business opportunities.
In addition, Canadian flight training schools are facing multiple challenges that, if addressed, would assist in tackling Canada’s pilot shortage.,
Aviation serves a variety of crucial roles in the Canadian economy through safely and efficiently transporting people, moving cargo and supplying or acting as a vital lifeline to northern and rural communities throughout Canada. Increasingly, technology and training have created new job opportunities for post-secondary students in Canada as the need for more aircraft mechanical engineers, pilots (fixed wing and helicopter), ramp service personnel and avionics manufacturing grow exponentially internationally. Airliner modifications drive much of the demand. Additional aerospace-related industries include digital engineering; materials and production innovation; communication systems; and ballistic systems.
Numerous parts of Canada are underserved with regards to aerospace innovation clusters. Quebec, Ontario and Vancouver have ever-expanding centres, i.e., Aero Montréal, Downsview; there are pockets of military pilot training (Manitoba); meanwhile, there are emerging aerospace innovation clusters in the Central Okanagan, outside Toronto and in northern Ontario, and in Prince George, BC and in Edmonton, Alberta.
Currently, pilot training and the need for a rapid increase in trained personnel for both the military and private carriers is paramount. A new, federally supported aerospace innovation cluster would solve inter-related issues around industry shortages in Canada and across the industry. Such a facility would have a direct positive economic impact on broad sectors of Canada’s central and western economy with regards to employment, housing, education and taxes. Location outside existing major urban centres offers reduced land footprint costs, good access to and from northern communities, including the nationally-critical oil sands, and national & international destinations from airports counted in the top 20 in Canada (Edmonton, Kelowna, Thunder Bay) with Prince George, BC having the third longest commercial runway ideally positioning it as a transpacific cargo gateway.
Infrastructure is already in place in some of these regions: state of the art simulators for pilot training, and large universities with accompanying research facilities. Building on existing infrastructure would mean explosive growth in jobs, growth in related aviation businesses and a boost for the national economy as it attracts worldwide investment and student pilots.
Projections by The Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace indicate that the Canadian Aviation industry will face a shortfall of at least 7,300 pilots by the year 2028. Furthermore, these estimates do not even reflect the potential impact of new flight duty time regulations which, it is reported, will further exacerbate the current shortage and increase the numbers of new pilots already required.
In April 2019, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities tabled Report 29 Supporting Canada’s Flight Schools, outlining the challenges facing flight training schools in Canada and provided numerous recommendations that would “support and encourage the growth of Canada’s flight training industry.”
Witnesses identified a shortage of flight instructors, the under-representation of women and Indigenous people among Canadian pilots, and insufficient support for remote and Northern air operators as key issues facing flight schools. This study also revealed barriers to the use of new technologies in flight training, as well as several regulatory and taxation challenges facing Canada’s flight schools.
The pilot shortage will significantly worsen in the future, affecting the travelling Canadian public and the military unless action is taken. The commander of Canada’s air force has called for retention and signing bonuses for pilots to address the military’s shortage of experienced aviators and mechanics. Lt.-Gen Al Meinzinger (in his role continuously since 2018) in 2019 called such new initiatives ‘vital’ for stabilizing the military’s ranks in a time of unprecedented competition for skilled aviators and technicians. The Canadian Air Force continues to be short of pilots, mechanics, sensor operators and other trained personnel across the air force’s different aircraft fleets. And, historically, the military is a training ground for the country’s commercial airline pilots.
The traditional pathway to becoming a pilot in Canada involves earning licenses and ratings that cost approximately $75,000 but can climb to twice that, with tuition and other student costs, when combined with post-secondary education. Most student pilots acquire substantial debt to cover these expenses. It is common to see high rates of attrition in flight programs due to lost financing.
Regional airlines report flight cancellations due to lack of flight crew especially in summer months. The Chair of the British Columbia Aviation Council has outlined fears that this pilot shortage will have severe and critical impacts not only on our economy and operators, but on our remote and Indigenous communities. “As one of the barriers to increased pilot supply is definitely the financial burden of obtaining the requisite flight time experience, we feel increased financial aid would be a strong indicator that the government is aware of the issue and supporting positive change,” says Heather Bell, BCAC Chair.
That the Government of Canada:
1. Work with the provinces and territories, particularly in second-tier Canadian centres, to expand federal support for aerospace-related training to underserved areas in Canada, where business building blocks are already in place
2. Implement the TRAN Committee Report 29 recommendations:
a. Establish incentives to promote flight instruction as a career path; outreach programs targeted to underrepresented groups; and sector-specific initiatives to support remote and Northern operations
b. Support the development of new technologies and regulatory modernization to allow their use in flight training
c. Increase support to flight schools to assist with high capital costs
d. Change existing financial assistance programs to ensure eligibility for flight training programs for employment purposes
e. Simplify immigration for foreign pilots, particularly those graduated from Canadian flight schools
 Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace www.avaerocouncil.ca
 The shortage affects not only commercial aviation but also the military, and remote communities which rely on air transport for food, medicine and other goods.
 TRAN Committee Report “Supporting Canada’s Flight Schools” – Report of the standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. April 2019, 42nd Parliament. https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/TRAN/report-29/