Airlines are struggling to find enough pilots keep up with record travel demand across the US.
“It’s particularly important in the Midwest that we get the needed pilots trained,” Sharon Pinkerton with industry group “Airlines for America” said.
Pinkerton says it’s the regional airlines that are suffering from a serious shortage and flights connecting small towns throughout the heartland are at risk.
“The smaller airlines have actually said they’re not providing service because of a lack of pilots,” Pinkerton said.
That’s why Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) has introduced a bill to help veterans become commercial pilots.
“To make sure as our veterans return after serving our country, they have ample opportunities,” Baldwin said.
The American Aviator Act would create a grant program to help pay for flight school and training for veterans who were not pilots in the military. It would also give relief to airlines in need of pilots.
This is a real win-win
Pinkerton says people aren’t becoming pilots, in part, because the training is expensive and time-consuming. She says making it more affordable for veterans will help.
“To give us access to a new group of people that we think are already upstanding citizens,” Pinkerton said.
Baldwin hopes to attach the bill to the FAA reauthorization bill — which the Senate could take up as soon as this month.
The regional airline association says there has never been a better time to be a pilot — airlines are offering competitive pay and benefits to attract new talent.
But the group says it’s also never been harder to become a pilot, because training can now cost up to $200,000 and that’s not covered by student loans.