Having a cockpit for an office has been Zachary Klauser’s dream for as long as he can remember.
And he’s on track to do just that with 250 hours of flight time and even more study time under his belt, he’s inching closer and closer to his dream every day.
“As a kid, I would always write notes to the pilot. Sometimes I would be able to go sit in the cockpit during the flight with the pilot and I always thought that was a great experience. It kind of gave me the drive to want to give that experience to another kid one day,” said Klauser, an ATP Flight School student. “The biggest thing is just realize we need pilots and it is good to help it, especially when people need to get home and see family and stuff like that.”
Now is a really good time to become a pilot. The airline industry needs people to fill thousands of pilot openings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 14,000 pilot openings each year for the next decade.
Between increased travel demand, retirements because of the pandemic, and new airlines popping up, the airline industry has never seen a pilot shortage quite like this.
But while becoming a pilot means needing hundreds of hours of flight time to qualify for a job with an airline many students at ATP Flight School in Fort Myers are working to one day pilot a flight in the sky.
So what we have is an immediate problem with only a long-term solution.
“The pilot shortage has always been lingering around. Now post-pandemic travel demand has increased. New airlines have pop the surface. The demand for pilots is bigger than ever,” said Skeeter Moreno, training support manager at ATP Flight School.
Flight instructors at ATP are working hard to train the next generation of pilots quickly and safely.
“What we are trying to do is get as many pilots as we can and fill those gaps but like I said make sure that we are safe, make sure they are getting quality instruction and moving them on,” said Clay Seifert, an ATP flight instructor.
ATP said they can get pilots to the 1,500-hour mark to work for an airline within about two years.
While it was Klauser’s dream to fly, that wasn’t the case for Vasili Noulas.
“I was planning on going to college for finance and then I kind of realized that sitting behind a desk and like a 9-to-5 is something I don’t really want to do,” Noulas said.
What he does want to do is follow in his dad’s footsteps.
His dad has been an airline pilot for 28 years.
“He told me why not go up for an intro flight and so I went up and I was just hooked ever since,” Noulas said. “I mean your desk is an airplane so you are seeing different things around the world.”
“With the influx in the pilot shortage, new starts, new aspiring pilots, They walk in our facilities every single day,” said Moreno.
At ATP Flight School, student use simulators and get one-on-one instruction to help them get closer to the 1,500 hours of flight they need to work for an airline.
“What we are trying to do with ATP with an accelerated program is to get those pilots set up so they can fill those gaps. We try to get it as short as possible but at the same time we have to do a really good job to make sure one, the pilot is going to be safe and other people flying as well are going to be safe,” Seifert said.
For Noulas, the shortage is an opportunity to help.
“I know there’s not going to be any short amount of work I can find,” Noulas said.