Pilot Certification Numbers Increase Again in 2023

Tracking pilot certification numbers each year allows us to understand how robustly our training system is producing potential future employable pilots for our aviation system. In a continued trend, and with demand for hiring strong, it again appears that certification events climbed in response according to recently released FAA Airman Certification data.

A total of 134,057 pilot certificates were issued in 2023, up from 106, 662 in 2022 and 93,775 in 2021. You can see the increased trend over the past years, and one that has largely continued since 2010 in the graph below with a small dip in 2016 and 2017.

When we look at more granular detail, we see that in the core primary pilot certificates, the initial private pilot certificate, instrument rating, and commercial pilot certifications, each is showing an increasing trend, with 2023 showing higher certification numbers than any other years in recent history.

To accomplish the certification of pilots, we also need to have instructors. Commensurately, we are seeing equivalent trends of increasing Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate issuance. Our issuance numbers of CFI certificates are at levels not seen in nearly 40 years as depicted in the below graph.

Some of you reading this know that I pick at the U.S. Civil Airman statistical data every year, digging in and trying to understand what some of the trends and data points are telling us. Things we might use to understand better our training industry, our pilot community, and our professional career paths. These quick data points are the first of some of the data I am going to be sharing over the next couple of days as I fill in my spreadsheets and graphs. Hopefully, you find some of it as interesting, and potentially helpful as I do!

With that, more data to come in the upcoming days…

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About Jason Blair

Jason Blair is an active single and multiengine instructor and an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner with over 6,000 hours total time, over 3,000 hours of instruction given, and more than 3000 hours in aircraft as a DPE. In his role as Examiner, over 2,000 pilot certificates have been issued. He has worked for and continues to work with multiple aviation associations with the work focusing on pilot training and testing. His experience as a pilot and instructor spans nearly 20 years and includes over 100 makes and models of aircraft flown. Jason Blair has published works in many aviation publications with a focus on training and safety.

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