Recruiting Pilots When They Are In Short Supply
03.30.16 · Ashley Bowen Cook
Executive AirShare (EAS) had a good problem. As the nation’s third-largest fractional operator, its growing fleet needed more pilots. But how do you find pilots as the supply diminishes and demand increases?
By now, the numbers are all too familiar. In 1980, more than 600,000 people held private, commercial or airline transport pilot certificates. In 2014, that number had dropped to 425,000. There were more than half a million private and student pilots in 1980; less than half that in 2014.
According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the United States continues to lose about 6,000 private pilots every year. Meanwhile, pilot demand grows. Boeing forecasts a global need for 28,000 additional pilots per year for the next 20 years.
Sell the Advantages
As Flying magazine put it: “Is flying for a fractional a good career choice compared to flying for an airline? Well, with brand-new airplanes with the latest avionics, reasonable pay, schedules arranged well in advance and the variety and challenge of flying different passengers to different airports, what’s not to like?”
Executive AirShare offers a close-knit, quality-focused private operation. So its campaign led with these advantages. And did it in an attention-getting way. Its highly targeted campaign used playful creative – from “Isn’t it time you loved flying again?” to “iPads not crash pads.”
Targeted – and Effective
EAS needed exceptional pilots. That meant standard pilot job search tactics would not be enough, because the best pilots might not be looking for a job.
The company developed a digital campaign leveraging targeted programmatic placement, retargeting and direct buys – supplemented with social media posts – to highlight its tight-knit culture, dedication to excellence and attention to the kind of details that create a rewarding pilot experience.
Digital ads were targeted to demographic and lifestyle content of particular appeal to pilots. Calls to action clicked through to a recruiting web page that spelled out the advantages and made it easy for an interested pilot to check out the possibilities and complete an online application. Retargeting efforts tracked pilots who visited the recruitment page but took no action, giving them a second chance to think about the offer. Direct ads on pilot recruitment job sites rounded out the effort.
The result exceeded expectations – EAS found the pilots it needed and ended the recruitment campaign early. Now it’s a good problem – solved. For now anyway. Continued growth may have Executive AirShare looking for new pilots again soon.
This column ran in the March 31 issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.