It's an issue the industry is working to address.
"What we can do is partner with governments, partner with training agencies, partner with airlines and focus a training curriculum that allows the training of those pilots," says Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "We're trying to get out in front of it."
Together with partner airlines, Boeing runs pilot training schools in Singapore, South Korea, Australia, Japan and China.
Ground crew also in short supply
Boeing's chief competitor Airbus has a training school in Beijing and last week announced a new joint venture with Singapore Airlines to set up a $64 million facility, offering full pilot training in Singapore.
Mil-Com works in China, too, with joint venture training centers in Xian in central northwest China and in Tianjin southeast of Beijing.
As in Vietnam, the country is heavily dependent on foreign pilots because of the shortage of trained locals.
Sharma says pilots in China are paid 25% more than anywhere else in the region, and even then airlines have problems holding on to them for any more than a couple of years.
But he warns there's an even more pressing area of concern in the region.
"Everybody talks about the sexy industry of pilots," he says. "Nobody talks about the poor mechanic who's in the hangar working day and night, in sweat, rain and humidity."
"That's challenge number one -- attract the talent pool, because a lot of kids just say, 'Yeah I'd rather be an IT guy, work in an air-conditioned office, rather than be standing in these conditions working on an airplane,'" says Sharma. "So that's a big, big challenge to attract the right talent."
According to Boeing's Pilot and Technical Market Outlook, Asia Pacific will need 215,300 new maintenance technicians to service the new airplanes entering the region between now and 2032.
That's 43% of the projected global demand for technicians.
David Stewart is a UK-based aviation analyst for ICF International, a government and commercial consultancy based in the Washington, D.C. area.
"You can get a new pilot in 18 months," he says. "You can take it from zero, to being in the right hand seat, in 18 months. It might worry some people, but that's the truth."
"And if you're growing at Japan Airlines you can go and recruit out of a low-fare carrier because the pilot at the low-fare carrier wants to fly a bigger plane. So the people who've got the problem finding the pilots are the low-fare carriers, the bottom of the food chain.
"Mechanics take five years before you can sign off a plane certificate for release. So the supply chain is much more difficult there because it takes longer for it to react."
Same problems, new solution?
Stewart says pilot shortages have been talked about for years, as has the shortage of mechanics in the United States, yet somehow the issue always gets sorted out.
Boeing's Randy Tinseth agrees.