UK airlines face a shortage of pilots in the future because of the high costs of training, according to the British Airline Pilots Association.

The number of recruits to flight colleges is falling as trainees are forced to fund costs of up to £100,000 to obtain a commercial licence. Trainee pilots can no longer count on airline sponsors to fund the costs, according to the union.

Many training schemes were cut in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and BALPA is calling on airlines to shoulder more of the responsibility for training.

The union says it is now almost impossible for young people from middle and low-income families to get into the profession.

BALPA chairman Captain Mark Searle told the BBC: “Once trainees have their basic licence they increasingly have to find another £25,000 to £35,000 to pay for the ‘privilege’ of building their experience at the controls of a big jet and get their type rating.

“This is plain wrong. These young pilots are desperate for a job and are now being charged by airlines to fly fare-paying passengers. Airlines should be ashamed.

“This is also bad economics for the UK. With the economic downturn showing some signs of reversing, Britain’s aviation industry is going to wake up with a pilot shortage because of the disgraceful way we have been treating young hopefuls.”

Pilot Martin Alder, a Balpa member, said there was need for about 400 new pilots a year in the UK.

“In the past airlines would offer sponsorship so young people who have the right academic qualifications and aptitude would go along and be tested for their ability to fly and their training would be paid for,” he reportedly said.

“It would be about a two year course and then they’d arrive at the airlines and start working for a living, paying back that investment.”