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'We just have to continue to get crews to grow as well' | Airlines hiring thousands of pilots with air travel on the rise

Jordan David Spardella with the Academy of Aviation said they are seeing an increase of folks coming in to get their pilot license.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As the country moves away from the pandemic, more people are getting comfortable with flying, and airlines are looking to grow to keep up with demand.

On May 1, 2022, TSA reported nearly 2.3 million passengers compared to 1.6 million passengers last year on the same date.

In response, airlines are hiring thousands of pilots this year to keep up with the pace.

A spokesperson with United Airlines said they intend to hire 2,000 pilots this year, and roughly 10,000 by 2030. The airline also opened a new flight training academy to get more pilots qualified and ready to go. Their goal is also to increase recruitment efforts for more women and people of color.

American Airlines is also looking to hire about 2,000 pilots this year. Last year the airline had a goal to hire 350 pilots and hired more than 575.

This year, the goal is to hire 180 pilots a month. It’s already exceeded this by having hired nearly 800 pilots so far.

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Meanwhile, Jordan David Spardella with the Academy of Aviation said they are seeing an increase of folks coming in to get their pilot license.

“Flights have gone up and continued to go up," Spardella said. "We just have to continue to get crews to grow as well... For flight training and getting on the flight line."

He said if you are going to get into the industry the time is now, while there is a pilot shortage.

“So if I join American today, and you join American tomorrow, I'm always going to be senior to you,” Spardella said. “So the only way you're going to have people beneath you, and seniority to get better trips and better flights… You need people to come through training and people to leave, so you can keep going up in that number.”

To be an airline pilot it can take anywhere from two to four years after you complete the required 1,500 hours of flight time but programs are not cheap.

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“It can be between 70 grand to 100 grand, depending on where you go,” he said. “Obviously, the most expensive ways to go get your four-year degree and do flight training, that's the most expensive.”

The need for pilots can create nightmares for travelers.

“If there are not as many pilots and there are not as many reserve pilots then there's more of a chance your flights going to get canceled or delayed due to a pilot problem, or any flight crew problem," Spardella said. 

The Federal Aviation Administration sent this statement: "The FAA is working to create a robust pipeline of skilled and diverse professionals coming into the industry and the agency. We know we must think differently about recruiting the next generation, and that includes continually making information available to them where they are and in a format, they will embrace."

In January, the FAA awarded $5 million in grants to teach the next generation of aviation professionals. Two of the grant recipients are in North Carolina: The Guilford County School System received $45,000 and Elizabeth City State University received $269,000.

Contact Jesse Pierre at jpierrepet@wcnc.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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