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Valley flight schools hoping to help with pilot shortage

Posted at 10:35 PM, Jun 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-21 01:35:50-04

PHOENIX — Flight delays and cancelations are plaguing summer travelers, as the airline industry tries to grapple with demand. One of the issues is not enough staff, specifically pilots.

But here in the Valley there are nearly ten flight schools that make the Valley a powerhouse for teaching future pilots.

“The second I touched down I thought, that’s cool what do I have to do to do that,” said Hallie Carlson.

For Hallie and her brother and McKay Carlson, it was love at first flight.

“I came and I loved it,” said McKay. "I decided that’s what I wanted to do, so I packed up and moved to Arizona.”

The brother/sister pair are learning through AeroGuard Flight Training Center in Deer Valley.

“The dream is flying airplanes, but we will obviously go through Sky West,” said McKay.

Sky West partners with airlines like Delta and American and have invested in programs, like AeroGuard, to help build their own workforce.

“Every airline is hiring a couple thousand people a year,” said flight instructor for AeroGuard, Zach Grace.

But Grace told ABC15, right now, AeroGuard has 100 to 150 students.

“So the schools, no one can really keep up with the demand,” said Grace.

Some of the issues started during COVID.

“All airlines slowed down and they offered pretty lucrative retirement packages, and then it turned into a big vacuum,” said Grace.

Those pilots left the industry, on top of a shortage that was already predicted. Grace said now airlines are fighting just to get back just to normal staffing.

“I would guess they would be back to pre-COVID staffing by the middle of next year, and that doesn’t already address the big shortage that was coming,” said Grace.

The flight instructor said financing for programs has improved, and the career offers a good work-life balance. It still takes time for students to go through the necessary training, which starts with getting a private license. Pilots also have to get 1500 flying hours before they can fly for an airline.

After almost four years, Grace has over 1,600 hours and is months away from being ready.

He said the opportunity and the need is there.

“Right now, everybody is hiring,” said Grace. “If you’re qualified, you're competent, there’s a good chance you’ll get your foot in the door somewhere.”

For more information on AeroGuard’s program, head to the school’s official website.