ATLANTA (CBS46) — Baby Boomer pilots have long been retiring from commercial airlines; and now, the labor shortage may have also led to a pilot shortage.
“And then we had COVID hit, and that set everything off by a bit, because of the second set of early-retirements,” said Gabrielle Disanza, flight instructor at Aero Atlanta.
During the pandemic, many airlines urged pilots and other employees to take early retirement and leaves of absence to cut expenses. But now, a summer travel surge in in full swing. U.S airlines are seeing around 2 million travelers a day – nearly matching demand in 2019.
“My uncle, he was a retired navy pilot. He got hired by FEDEX, and I grew up flying with him,” said Disanza. “I’ve been doing it for 5-and-a-half years now, and I still love it … I can get away from my home in the ground and be in my home in the sky.”
Disanza says students are lining up in droves for aviation classes during the pandemic.
“People had a lot of time on their hands. People had some extra money because they weren’t going on vacation anymore,” said Disanza.
But now, the traveling public needs more pilots. Airlines that originally cut costs, are now instead creating incentives, offering hundreds and even thousands of dollars in bonuses, hoping to keep up with demand. They’re doing that to prevent more flight cancellations.
According to FlightAware, the big four airlines cancelled over 5-thousand flights in June, the majority at Southwest and American.
The Peyer brothers, Matthew and Mark, are part of this new group of pilot trainees.
“Definitely had to learn a lot,” said Matthew Peyer. “It’s like our instructor said, he opened fire hose on us, and dosed us with all the aviation stuff.”
This was their first take-off.
But for new aviation students, it can take on average 3- to 4- years of courses, from the first day of class to working for a commercial airline. The training requires 1500 hours. So there isn’t really a quick fix to the problem.
“The careers that are pushed when you’re a child you can hear about is, you can be a doctor, a lawyer, you can be a veterinarian,” said Disanza. “I think all those professions are excellent. But piloting is one of those professions you don’t hear much as a child.”
But Disanza says she’s doing all that she can as an instructor to help students make headway in the career.
“It’s one of those, unless you try, you don’t know,” said Disanza.