Companies teaming up with ND schools to combat pilot shortage

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 4:38 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - There’s no question travel is on the rise.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, the number of airport screenings has surpassed 2019 levels.

But someone needs to work those airports and fly those planes, and that’s putting pressure on airlines and pilots.

COVID-19 sent pilots home, and many of them stayed there and retired. Now the industry is short-staffed.

But those tasked with filling the gaps said they saw this coming years before COVID.

As passengers flock to airports, pilots are not.

During one of the busiest travel seasons, pilots are being asked to stretch to make it all work.

“All the airlines need time to get back into the currency and competency, and just into that specific operations procedures. You can turn off aviation really quickly. It takes a lot to turn it back on,” said University of North Dakota graduate Shane Gerbert.

Until more pilots are brought on, companies have been boosting overtime benefits.

Student pilots are in high demand, but they have a litany of training requirements before they can take flight.

“Once you’re done with that, then you have to find a job that will get you the hours. So, you have to train, you have to get the hours to fly. And so for some folks, that’s a bit of a barrier,” Gerbert said.

To lower the barriers, airlines are teaming up with schools like the University of North Dakota to get students in the pipeline.

Companies are making deals with students to pay for training in exchange for employment later.

Airlines get their pilots and students get jobs straight out of college.

Some airlines have needed to cancel flights due to not enough staff on flights.

Companies are looking for more stability in the coming months as travel slows down. But it could be until September until there’s a noticeable drop.

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