There are an estimated 1 to 1.5 million pilots in the world.

There’s no exact number because no international organization keeps track, and the laws governing pilots, including their education and employment, vary from country to country.

So private pilots in one country may not have to register with the government, while those in another country may have to.

Upwards of half of the world’s pilots are from the United States alone.

Most pilots, upwards of 95%, are also male.

Despite the high demand for skilled pilots, there’s still a large pilot shortage, which is caused by the difficulty and cost of obtaining a pilot license.

Number of Pilots in the World

The International Civil Aviation Organization estimates there are 617,000 pilots in the world, but it’s unlikely to be accurate.

It’s more likely that there are between 1 and 1.5 million pilots in the world.

The exact number is hard to pinpoint because the number of pilots constantly changes, and many pilots are private pilots, which is hard to gather worldwide data on.

Number of Pilots in the U.S.

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) estimates there are 700,000 licensed pilots in the U.S.,

And there are around another 45,000 pilots in the U.S. military.

These numbers include active pilots, retired pilots, student pilots, and even recreational pilots. 

Number of Private Pilots

The FAA estimates there are over 160,000 private pilots in the United States alone, which is the world’s largest community of private pilots.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority(CAA) reports over 55,000 private pilots in Britain.

The Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) reported 35,000 private pilots in Canada. 

These numbers are likely inaccurate since not all private pilots are required to register in the US, Canada, and the U.K.

Other countries also have their own requirements for whether private pilots need to register. 

So the actual number of private pilots in the world is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands. 

Number of Commercial Pilots

There are an estimated 225,000 commercial pilots in the world, with the FAA reporting 100,000 in the United States alone.

The figure constantly changes, since the airline industry constantly evolves. 

Number of Airline Pilots

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) estimates there are as many as 500,000 airline pilots as of 2021.

This number will likely increase vastly over the next few years as the number of flights increases. 

Number of Male Pilots

Over 90% of all pilots are male, so there are between 900,000 and 1.35 million male pilots in the world.

According to this statistic, there are up to 700,000 male pilots in the United States alone. 

Number of Female Pilots

Only 7 to 10% of pilots are estimated to be women.

So there are likely between 60,000 and 70,000 female pilots in the world.

The FAA reports that there are around 58,542 female pilots in the U.S.

Of these, only 7,724 are commercial pilots and another 11,316 are private pilots. 

Number of Pilots in the Air Force

The United States has 14,000 active duty pilots, with many more non-active pilots.

The United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force has around 4,000 active pilots.

It’s difficult to estimate the exact number of air force pilots in the world, since the numbers vary greatly from country to country and over time. 

Number of Pilots in the Navy

The United States Navy has 12,000 pilots, which is more than any other navy.

The United Kingdom’s Royal Navy has 1,000 pilots.

The Royal Canadian Navy has 500 pilots.

Australia’s Royal Australian Navy has 300 pilots.

Most other countries have fewer pilots in their navies.

It’s difficult to estimate the total number of navy pilots in the world, but it is likely less than 20,000. 

Number of Pilots in the Army

The United States Army has 13,000 pilots, which is more than any other country.

The British Army only has 2,000 pilots.

Other countries, like Canada, Australia, and Germany, have even fewer. 

The total number of army pilots in the world is no greater than 25,000.

Number of Pilots on a Plane

A small plane can have only one pilot.

All other planes can have between two to four pilots.

Planes with two pilots have a Captain and a Senior First Officer.

Planes with four pilots will have two Second Officers in addition to a Captain and a Senior First Officer. 

The captain is in command. The first officer is second in command. And the second officers are third in the chain of command. 

Pilot Shortages

The pilot shortage is caused by the cost of pilot training and the rise of air travel demand in the past decade.

As becoming a pilot is difficult, expensive and time-consuming, aspiring pilots aren’t trained fast enough to cover the increasing demand.

Many experienced pilots also retire every year, which further increases demand. 

Recently, after the end of COVID-19 lockdowns and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many airlines scheduled new routes, which further increased the pilot shortage.

Number of Planes in The World

There are likely some 39,000 to 42,000 airplanes currently in the world, including commercial, military, and private planes.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that there are more than 20,000 commercial aircraft in the world.

Private, military, and small planes make up the rest of this number. 

In conclusion:

  • There are anywhere between 1 and 1.5 million pilots in the world.
  • Close to half of all pilots in the world are from the U.S. alone.
  • Over 90% of pilots are male.
  • The average age of pilots range from 40 to 50.
  • Becoming a pilot is difficult due to the high cost of flight training, rigorous training, and the time it takes to qualify.
  • Additionally, recent events have led to many airlines opening new routes and flights, which has further led to a pilot shortage.

See Also: A Complete Guide to Airline Operations

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.