Pilot shortage makes room in the air for flight students - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Pilot shortage makes room in the air for flight students

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

Taking your career to the sky may be a good option soon. Boeing forecasts that in the next twenty years, nearly half a million pilots will be needed, raising concerns about where these captains of the sky will come from.

"The manpower requirement, the personnel need, will also help focus young men and young women to possibly re look at the field that there is such a heightened demand for, you know for pilots and technicians," says Ken Dufour, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Trustee.

The U.S., along with international airlines, need pilots. That's why schools like Embry Riddle Aeronautical University are looking up. Whether students are looking for a career flying high as a pilot, or are planted on the ground as an aviation manager. Airlines will be looking for their next generation of pilots to fill these spots. They can look at places like local airports as well, like Poplar Grove, where you can earn your hours and your ratings just like you could at a four year university.

"The only difference here is that you cannot work on your degree while you're getting your ratings," says Tina Thomas, owner and flight instructor at Poplar Grove. "You can certainly go to any institution any place and get your four year degree which is required by the airlines, and in the meantime, come to your local airport and get your ratings as well."

Students build flight time, ranging from 40 hours minimum for a private license, all the way up to 250 for a copilot spot at a commercial airline, which could be increasing. But the shortage does raise a tough issue.

Will students and instructors rush to earn their wings?

"If we get to the point that the demand is so high and we can't train the men and women to fulfill those roles and they have to go into service with less experience and less education than we'd like them to have, then hopefully that doesn't become a safety issue," says Dufour.

The FAA is considering a proposal that would bump that requirement from 250 hours to 1500 hours for airline co-pilots.

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