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Critical pilot shortage leaves a void for flight students to fill

Posted at 10:15 PM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-23 08:44:37-04

TULSA, Okla. — Canceled flights continue to frustrate passengers nationwide.

Last weekend, there were more than 19,000 flights canceled across the county. Travelers stranded and forced to sleep on airport floors or rent cars instead of waiting for the next flight.

So, why are the so-called "friendly skies" seeming less friendly these days?

The problem is two-fold. There are more passengers and a shortage of pilots. That shortage is a headache for travelers but it’s also an opportunity for the next generation to fill the void.

Experts tell 2 News this is the best time to become a pilot as the demand is really ‘taking off.’

Coit Garrison, an aviation professor at Tulsa Community College, said the pilot shortage isn’t a new problem. But airlines weren’t prepared for the recent demand.

“We’re already back to 2019 levels and that’s only expected to increase over the next two decades,” Garrison said.

Garrison said the shortage comes down to three major factors:

  • More people are traveling
  • Airlines offered early retirement to pilots to avoid furlough during the pandemic
  • The FAA and the International Civil Aviation Organization require pilots to retire at 65

Garrison says the shortage leaves openings for new pilots.

“Now is the best time in probably a few decades to get into this industry.”

Becoming a pilot is no easy task. Once students become certified flight instructors, they must complete 1,250 hours of flight experience before they get their Air Traffic Transport Certificate. But Garrison also says the payoff is worth it. While flight schools can be expensive, new pilots can make six figures once they start flying.

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