Chicago Tribune

Help wanted in the cockpit: Airlines need to hire thousands of pilots over the next decade

CHICAGO - U.S. airlines have a retirement problem.

When the airline industry struggled after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and during the recession, pilot jobs were scarce. American Airlines went 13 years without hiring a single one, a stretch that David Tatum, the airline's director of pilot recruiting and development, calls "the lost decade."

"There was little career progression, so there was not a lot of motivation to learn to fly," he said.

Hiring has resumed in recent years as demand for travel has grown. But a wave of upcoming retirements means airlines will need to replace thousands of current employees. Over the next 20 years, Boeing estimates that airlines will need to recruit about 131,000 commercial pilots in North America and 514,000 more throughout the rest of

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