Aircraft manufacturing giant Boeing is predicting that over the next two decades the airline industry will need to find almost half-a-million new pilots in order to keep pace with expected growth. Boeing also said nearly 600,000 new maintenance workers would be required.

The US based company said it thought demand would rise most rapidly in the Asian markets and that more than 180,000 new pilots would need to be trained and employed in countries such as China. Boeing Training and Flight Services’ chief customer officer, Roei Ganzarski, warned that at present the Asia Pacific infrastructure would not be capable of providing the numbers of new pilots and mechanics Boeing says will be needed.

Giovanni Bisignani, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), predicted that in China the demand for new pilots could be as much as three times that which existing training facilities are capable of producing. He added that Chinese airlines might be forced to shop abroad for their pilots of the future.

Editor for Flight Global, an airline industry website, John Ostrower, said Boeing’s outlook was in line with predictions that the number of airline passengers will at least have doubled by 2030. He added that demand for engineers, especially in countries like the US, will be huge as many come up for retirement.

He went on to predict that airlines would start looking to countries like Brazil where the engineering work force is younger. Ostrower also pointed out that the requirements of the airline industry in 20 years could be very different to today.