Flight schools expect demand to take off
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
by Ken Kaye, Staff Writer
Within the next few years, U.S. airlines are expected to see a severe pilot shortage as thousands of older captains and copilots retire and jetliner fleets swell.
While local flight schools have seen only a slight uptick in student enrollments, they expect interest to surge and are gearing up their programs to meet the need.
Among them: the aviation programs at Broward College and Lynn University Bachelor's, master's & online degrees and private flight schools such as American Flyers in Pompano Beach and Pelican Flight Training in Pembroke Pines.
As part of its curriculum, Lynn's School of Aeronautics in Boca Raton teaches student pilots to use electronic iPads rather than paper maps and charts.
"More airlines are starting to go with iPads as a means to save paper and reduce weight," said Jeffrey Johnson, the school's dean.
Lynn's advanced flight students also are taught in a sophisticated twin-engine aircraft with a "glass" cockpit that features computer screens, much like those in airliners, he said.
American Flyers, at Pompano Beach Air Park, has created an academy geared specifically for airline careers. "We tell students on the first day that this is their first day at an airline," said director Andrew Henley. "It's good preparation for them."
Broward College's Aviation Institute in Pembroke Pines offers flight training on computer simulators and a "jet transition program" that familiarizes students with airline procedures, said Jan Shakespeare, the institute's associate dean of aviation operations.
The school offers scholarships on a limited basis and the opportunity for graduates to return as flight instructors, a job that enables them to build flying time quickly and meet airline requirements.
"There's no doubt a pilot shortage is coming," said Terry Fensome, owner of Pelican Flight Training at North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines, adding that if an airline is unable to hire enough qualified pilots, it would have to park some of its planes.
Airlines worldwide are projected to need 34,000 new planes to replace older, less efficient ones over the next two decades. Those planes will create a need to hire more than 531,000 pilots, with 69,000 of those in North America, according to a Boeing study.
Almost all 102 students at the Aviation Institute aim to be airline pilots. Among them is Edward Weisenberger, 18, of Oakland Park, who recently soloed in a Cessna 172.
Weisenberger said he knows airlines don't pay as much as they used to and that the work environment can be stressful. But he said becoming an airline pilot has been "a lifelong goal."
"It's not always about the pay," he said. "I have a lot of friends who are airline pilots, and they love it."
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Published on December 11, 2012