Vermonters take to the sky, filling gaps in aviation industry

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 10:09 PM EDT
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The number of pilots retiring is outpacing the number of pilots taking to the skies. With this challenge, many airlines are being forced to cancel and reduce flights. But there’s no shortage of people wanting to learn to fly, according to the Vermont Flight Academy.

Vermont Flight Academy executive director Tony D’Urso says they’ve had to shift flight hours because of how much interest there is. But requirements to become a pilot can take years.

Ella Newman, a student at the academy, already has her private pilot’s license but is looking to go commercial.

“My grandpa used to take me to watch planes fly,” Newman said. “I was hesitant at first, because how do I get into that? How do I even start?”

According to a recent analysis, D’Urso says there’s a nationwide shortage of roughly 60,000 pilots. He says the pandemic played a major part in that.

“Airlines not knowing what to expect encouraged early retirement, so that really sort of began the cascade,” he said.

D’Urso says students are landing jobs across the industry before they even complete the program.

While people are interested in entering the profession, it doesn’t come without barriers.

“It’s not an inexpensive profession to be trained in and there’s a lead time,” D’Urso explained.

A commercial license program requires 250 total flight hours and costs roughly $24,000, but for many, it’s the dream.

“Flying cargo would be a little sad because it’s flying boxes, I’d rather fly people because they want to go somewhere and I can take them,” Newman said.

If you’re interested in flying, but not quite sure, Vermont Flight School offers Discovery Flights. During those, you learn the basics of flying and what it really takes to get off the ground.