McKinsey forecasts demand for 60,000 air taxi pilots by 2028

Avatar for eVTOLBy eVTOL | June 10, 2020

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 6 seconds.

The consulting firm McKinsey & Company predicts that by 2028, the emerging urban air mobility (UAM) industry could require up to 60,000 pilots — a number equivalent to 17 percent of the total number of commercial pilots in 2018.

McKinsey pilot forecast

McKinsey’s Uri Pelli and Robin Riedel cite the figure in a new article calling attention to the challenges associated with hiring and training tens of thousands of pilots for eVTOL air taxis. Before the COVID-19 crisis, they write, current commercial aviation operations were expected to require 320,000 newly trained pilots over the next decade.

“The COVID-19 crisis will defer the need for these pilots by a few years and potentially even lower the number required if commercial aviation does not return to its original trajectory,” they acknowledge. “That said, there will still be a need for most of those new pilots toward the end of the decade. Pilots for UAM would come on top of that.”

Pelli and Riedel argue that pilots will be necessary for UAM to succeed in the near term, even though most eVTOL developers plan to eventually transition to fully autonomous aircraft.

“That could take a decade or more because of technology issues, regulatory concerns, and the need to gain public acceptance,” they write. “Until autonomous flight of hundreds or thousands of vehicles above cities across the globe becomes a reality, the industry must recruit, train, and deploy thousands of pilots — an important but much less visible challenge than other issues associated with UAM.”

Pilot Kyle Clark in Beta Ava XC
Beta Technologies founder Kyle Clark at the controls of his Ava XC eVTOL prototype. Beta is one of the eVTOL developers that expects to require human pilots in the near term. Eric Adams Photo

At the same time, they note, the industry’s explicit intention to achieve fully autonomous operations will create a barrier to hiring the pilots needed in the short term, since traditional flight training costs are overly burdensome for a career that might only last five years. Consequently, Pelli and Riedel state it will be incumbent on the industry to develop an “attractive value proposition for prospective pilots,” which could include subsidized flight training.

Other key initiatives identified by the authors include streamlining the training and certification of pilots, managing the pilot workforce, and leveraging pilots “to provide an excellent experience and increase UAM’s public acceptance.”

“Although the need for pilots will increase the costs and complexity of the UAM business, it may improve customers’ experience of the ride, as well as perceptions of its safety,” they suggest. “This, in turn, will influence the willingness of potential customers to embrace an exotic new mode of transport.”

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  1. I’d love to know who pays McKinsey & Company to publish these absolutely ridiculous reports. Generated from complete nonsense, and idiocy. It was bad enough having to spend the last five plus years, listening to the tripe, of the demand for helicopter pilots and airline pilots, with no thought and consideration for the real variables that would impact the future predictions for such, And now they want to throw this absolute garbage into the mainstream media. Wake up, and stop publishing this bogus, unvalidated junk! My 6 year old would do a better job at analyzing future pilot requirements.

  2. I’m a dual rated ATP pilot and have been flying for over 27 years. I would love to work with one of these VTOL / EVTOL companies but never can seem to find any info or advertisement for pilots.

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