In a continued effort to track ATP pilot certification numbers, I am sharing with readers the current status of production over the past 5 years on a monthly basis of ATP certificate issuances in the United States. The table below is graphically telling as to the two major dips we have seen, first when the rules changes took place from the “1500-hour” rule change and the industry retrenched on its efforts and methodology for training and testing ATP pilot candidates, and secondly, as the effects of COVID-19 brought the training to a near complete halt for a short period of time.
We can see from that point that training has again increased, but we still are experiencing limited numbers of ATP pilot certifications due to the constraints we have in the overall training system with how we produce ATP pilots.
A full table on a month-by-month basis is below that allows the reader to see from a granular level how many ATP certificates we are issuing on a monthly basis.
It would be easy to look at this number and make a quick assumption that it is the flight training community that is the problem here, that they are not producing enough pilot candidates to meet professional pilotage needs. But if we compare the number of commercial pilot certificate issued in the same time period to those of ATP certificates, we see the throughput is not a 1-to-1. In fact, it is less than 50%. Commercial pilot certificates are typically issued at ab-initio training providers, while in our current system the vast majority of ATP certificates are issued as a part of initial training at airlines or cargo carriers after the completion of an ATP-CTP course, which also requires some pretty specific simulator experience. These are higher level simulators that most ab-initio training providers do not have or have access to for their lower level pilot certificate training efforts.
While we do see some spikes, and when I say spikes, I mean a couple of hundred extra issuances, in some months, we have yet to break the 1000 ATP certificates issued in any given month point.
Our ATP pilot certificate production seems to be constricted not by initial training providers, but by simulator and airline training program capacity to bring in and complete ATP candidates in their inhouse training efforts. I get this. There are simulator time availability limitations, there are staffing levels needed to provide this training, and the ability to continue to provide or increase this training is hindered when active hiring at upper level (mainline airlines) service providers keeps hiring away talent.
There is no one solution to the question of ATP pilot certificate production, it is a landscape for all of us to work together to mold into a system that works for the overall aviation community. With that said, this data can help us better understand what we are experiencing as we work to meet the needs of the future.