Pilots in demand as airline industry struggles to keep up

Reporter: Taylor Petras
Published: Updated:
Pilots are in demand and one school in Southwest Florida is hoping to attract more students. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Air travel has picked up again but the airline industry is struggling to keep up.

Pilots are in demand, and American Airlines is canceling almost 1,000 flights because of the shortage.

Katie Clagg is a flight instructor at Paragon Flight in Fort Myers. The academy at Page Field said it’s on pace for a record year in training students.

“It’s continuing to get busier and busier, I’ll tell you that,” said Katie Clagg, Paragon Flight instructor.

The fascination for flight has Paragon student Matthew Spychalski considering a career as an airline pilot.

“Ever since I was a kid, I always found myself looking at airplanes flying around and, you know, guessing what kind of airplane it was, what airline, where it’s going,” Spychalski said.

The American Airlines flights canceled run through mid-July.

“Everyone needs to travel. I mean, there’s never going to be a time when we don’t need pilots,” said Cassie Thompson-Pride, also a Paragon Flight student.

Thompson-Pride, 18, is making it her mission to fly for the airlines by the time she’s 21.

“We need a lot of pilots, so the more we have, the better,” Thompson-Pride said. “They’re getting trained at a great facility.”

Soon, she and her fellow students will be cleared for takeoff.

Paragon Flight is expanding to keep up with demand. The academy is building a new maintenance facility and an 8,000 square-foot learning center. It’s slated to be done next year.

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