More women need to be encouraged to become pilots to help ease a shortage of crews in the industry, according to John Slattery, the chief executive of the commercial aviation division of Brazilian jet maker Embraer.
Last year, Boeing estimated that as many as 800,000 extra pilots will be needed over the next 20 years to cope with the rising number of people using air transport.
A shortage of pilots was a key reason why Ryanair was forced to cancel thousands of flights in 2017. It had seen pilots leave to join carriers such as Norwegian.
But the axing by under-pressure Norwegian of its transatlantic services from Ireland to North America, and the collapse of airlines including Thomas Cook, Wow, Germania and Monarch improved pilot supply for other carriers.
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“There’s a couple of different percentages going around, but the percentage of global commercial pilots that are female is somewhere between 3pc and 4.5pc,” Mr Slattery told the ‘Airfinance Journal’ conference in Dublin last week.
“But 50pc of the population is female. So, we’re trying to fly aircraft, but we’re only fishing for pilots in 50pc of the gene pool. That’s partly what we need to improve. We need to get more females trained [and] encourage them to come into the industry.
“We need to be going after female kids and encouraging the Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] subjects in primary school, and not in secondary school and third level.
“We need to outreach to the parents and say being a pilot is a good progression for your daughter, not just for your son.”
Mr Slattery, a native of Ennis, Co Clare, said that Embraer is also trying to hire more female engineers.
“We want more and more engineers to be female across the organisation,” said the aviation boss.
Last week, Mr Slattery said a $4.2bn deal that will see Boeing take an 80pc stake in a joint venture with Embraer’s commercial aircraft wing is “mission-critical” for the Brazilian group if it’s to withstand pressure from Airbus.
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