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A huge demand for new pilots

By Paul Nelson  |  Posted Jun 29th, 2011 @ 7:44am


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SALT LAKE CITY -- USA Today recently reported that Boeing has forecast a need for more than 460,000 new pilots by 2029. So, many large carriers are snatching up experienced pilots wherever they can, now.

UVU Assistant Dean for Aviation Dr. Greg Schwab said, "We've lost a very large number of our most experienced instructor pilots because the air carriers are trying to get them on staff now."

Reasons for hiring surge
  • Rapid growth of travel in Asia
  • Looming wave of pilot retirements in the US
  • Proposed changes to rules that could increase the time pilots must train, rest and work
  • Increasing demand for air travel within the US
Source: USA Today

Schwab says standards are changing. Pilots will eventually have to have more training hours in the sky. Plus, they will have to earn their airline transport pilot certificate, so they will have to be at least 23 years of age. Schwab says this age requirement can be a big obstacle for schools in other states, but because so many young men in Utah serve missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the age issue shouldn't be a problem here.

"Even though they're flight training, our students still hold up and (serve) their missions. So, we don't see that as a negative. But most flight schools are screaming because their notion is, ‘What are we going to do with the kids for a couple years?'"

For now, carriers are taking pilots with fewer training hours to meet demand, but Schwab says standards are still higher than they were three years ago. Because there are so many good-paying jobs in the industry now, Schwab says UVU is doing something it's never needed to before.

"For the first time, we are advertising nationally to bring in flight instructors here. We're paying for their travel to come here. We've never done that in the past," he said.

Although SkyWest Airlines is currently headquartered in St. George, Schwab says the majority of pilot jobs are out of state.

"What I always say out here is, ‘You've got to get over the mountain.' There are only so many flight jobs in the valley, here," he said.

He says the Asian and Indian markets are exploding with pilot jobs right now.

E-mail: pnelson@ksl.com

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