A speaker at our recent APATS event compared the effect of Covid 19 with the second world war, declaring it was the biggest crisis the world has faced since 1939.
It is hard not to agree, and certainly the effect on our industry has been devastating, As we have seen, recently announced fleet retirements and redundancies, furloughs, etc. are continuing and may well peak around the 1st of October when government funding is set to expire in some countries.
Despite the current upsurge in infections that perhaps indicate the short term ‘new normal’ of local, regional or even national shutdowns imposed to attempt to control the infection spikes, we may actually be approaching the point of resuming a more recognizable life.
As far as the airlines recovery is concerned, we are underway and will start to see numbers build once vaccines are available in quantity, which would seem to be around December or January. Local, national and regional flights will lead the way and 2021 will be a year of rebuilding. Just this week, airline stocks, along with those of restaurants and hotels, are at last on the rise, indicating an expectation of a start to recovery in the next quarter.
Difficult though it is to think back to where we were six months ago, it does make sense to review the state of the industry at that point and assess what has fundamentally changed.
In one of our internal team discussions last year we were reviewing the massive projections of Boeing and Airbus et al regarding numbers of aircraft and numbers of people needed, and there was some concern over the pace of expansion and the workload of a stretched training community.
Pilot and other staff shortages were of course a part of the discussion and they have gone away. This is a temporary change. Most projections indicate a return to 2019 levels of activity around 2023/4. If that is the case, then covering any future shortage depends on our ability to attract and keep students in training for the next few years when their job prospects will be really bright.
If we are unable to maintain or improve training levels, then staff shortages will again really bite in only a few years. Underlying demographics remain the same and early retirements have spiked as many senior people have decided to allow others to carry the rebuilding load.
Our conclusion was that even if the nay-sayers were correct and we did not achieve the expected doubling of the world fleet in the current 20-year period, a reduction of 20 or even 30 per cent still leaves a massive increase in activity and a very positive future, especially for the training and simulation suppliers.
This crisis has accelerated the pace of change in a way none of us expected. As another APATS speaker pointed out, due to the world wars, aviation went from paper, wood and bicycle wheels to the jet age in 40 years. Covid, from a training viewpoint, has certainly accelerated the deployment of XR, big data and AI and of course remote training.
As far as the recovery is concerned, we are underway and will start to see numbers build once vaccines are available in quantity, which would seem to be around December or January. Local, national and regional flights will lead the way and 2021 will be a year of rebuilding.
The position of the training industry as a vital piece of that reset and recovery activity is assured, though the next six months will be tough and uncertain. The simulation and training industry, however, is uniquely placed to innovate and support airline recovery, enabling crews to stay current and ready to get back to work.
By November, much will be clearer and I hope you will join us as we bring the community together at GlobalATS, virtually, for some much-needed networking. I’d also like to take this opportunity to invite you to join us all for WATS, which will take place at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort next April, as planned.