Call Us Today:  952-698-3000

Fight The Pilot Shortage: Steps To Take After High School

Are you someone who’s always wanted to take to the skies and become a pilot? The aviation  industry is currently facing a major challenge – a shortage of pilots. Airlines are struggling to find enough qualified individuals to meet the growing demand for air travel and fall out from the pandemic, among a host of other issues. But, if anything, that should encourage you to jump headfirst into a training program so you can become an airline pilot. After all, there are plenty of open job opportunities and you can be employed in just a few years.

And, if you’re passionate about flying and have your sights set on becoming a commercial pilot, and you’ve recently graduated high school, there are some specific steps you can take to make your dream a reality. With that said, let’s outline a path toward making you a successful professional pilot who will help fight the talent shortage.

What Is The Pilot Shortage?

If you’ve heard this term thrown around in the news recently, it’s due to the fact that the airline industry is facing issues attracting and retaining pilots. This is due to several factors, including the retirement of the baby boomer generation and the prohibitive cost and length of pilot training. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, the last baby boomers will be ineligible to work as pilots by 2029 due to their age. This means that the industry is losing experienced pilots at a faster rate than it can replace them.

At the same time, the process of becoming a pilot is expensive and time-consuming, which makes it difficult for young people to pursue a career in aviation. The high cost of flight training, coupled with the significant investment of time required, can be a significant barrier for those who are interested in becoming pilots.

As a result, there simply isn’t enough young talent entering the industry to replace the pilots who are retiring. This shortage is expected to continue in the coming years, which has implications for the industry as a whole. Airlines, training programs, and other aviation-related organizations are actively working to address this issue, but the shortage of pilots is likely to persist for the foreseeable future.

Other problems have also contributed to the shortage. A fallout in air travel from the COVID-19 pandemic caused organizations to force mass layoffs of pilots, many of whom didn’t come back when restrictions were lifted. If pilots did offer to come back, they started demanding larger salaries and better benefits – much of which has thankfully been provided. This cost, along with mandatory plane upgrades and a loss of revenue stemming from the pandemic has only cut into the ability to the right quantity of pilots.

Against all odds, however, lies one big opportunity – and that’s job opportunities, training and security for new pilots. But where do you start?

Steps To Take After High School To Become A Pilot

Training to become a pilot is a challenging but rewarding process that requires dedication and hard work for the best payout in the future. If you’re interested in becoming a pilot after high school, here are a few steps you can take to get the process rolling so you can someday get paid to fly.

Start Flying

It’s never too early to hop in the cockpit and start your flight training. In fact, the earlier the better. After all, as an airline pilot, you’ll be required to fly a minimum of 1,500 hours before even applying for an airline transport pilot license (ATP) certificate. And, you can start flying at age and obtain your private pilot certificate at the age of 17, so you can start training throughout high school – or junior high, for that matter. Overall, the more you fly, the more comfortable you’ll feel in any scenario.

Team With A Local Flight School

Many flight schools, some maybe even in your immediate vicinity, will help put you on the right path toward a career as a pilot. First, you’ll need to obtain your private pilot license (PPL), allowing you to fly solo in visible weather conditions. Next, you’ll move onto an instrument rating, where you can fly without visibility, a commercial pilot license and eventually, ATP and beyond. Many even partner with other prestigious universities or aviation organizations in order to offer a hybrid model of college-pilot training.

Obtain A Student Pilot Certificate

A student pilot certificate is not required to start lessons, but you will eventually need one in order to fly solo, which is an essential part of the training process. It’s better to apply for this sooner rather than later, so you don’t have to pause your training program once you reach that point. The student pilot certificate is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after an applicant meets certain requirements, which typically include passing a medical examination, a security background check, and an aeronautical knowledge test. Once issued, the student pilot certificate is valid for a period of 24 calendar months.

Consider A College Degree

The majority of the airlines, at this point in time, still need to see that you received a higher education outside of high school. While some smaller companies may be fine with high school or equivalent, the major and regional airlines will at least, will most certainly require a bachelor’s degree. You’ll get the most bang for your buck in the industry if you earn a degree in a field related to aviation, such as aeronautical engineering, physics or air traffic management, which increases your chances of being hired by an airline.

Apply For Scholarships Or Grants

After high school, students interested in becoming a commercial pilot should consider applying for scholarships or grants to help fund higher educational pursuits. These financial aid options help cover costs related to obtaining a pilot’s license, such as flight training, ground school and college courses. Many airlines, pilot associations and aviation foundations provide financial help for aspiring pilots – just remember, these opportunities are competitive, so students should start applying early. A well-written application and a strong commitment to your goals as a student-pilot can improve your chances of being selected.

Attend Events & Network

Professional or scholarly connections matter a lot in any industry, and aviation is certainly one of them. As soon as you graduate from college, your focus should shift to attending events or joining groups that are related to aviation. By connecting with others who share your passion for flying, you’ll open yourself to more job opportunities, gain insight into the industry and make lasting connections with people, some of whom you’ll eventually call best friends or dear colleagues. Joining online forums and social media groups dedicated to aviation is another way to network and stay informed about the latest developments in the industry. Sites like Facebook and Discord may be a good place to meet fellow aspiring pilots in your age group.

Find A Mentor

You can also reach out to other pilots and aviation professionals to ask for advice and mentorship. A trusted person that can offer guidance and support, as well as provide insights and advice based on their own experiences. They will help you navigate the challenges you’ll face on your path to becoming a pilot and offer advice on how to build your flight experience and advance your career. When seeking a mentor, look for someone with a wealth of experience in the aviation industry and who you admire and respect. Be clear about your goals and what you hope to gain from the relationship and be willing to invest time and effort into building the relationship.

Keep Up With The Industry

Staying up-to-date with new technologies, regulations and procedures is essential for anyone pursuing a career in the aviation industry. The aviation industry is constantly evolving, and it’s crucial to keep yourself informed. One way to keep up with relevant topics is to join a professional pilot organization, such as the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) or the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). These organizations offer a wealth of resources and information on the latest developments in the aviation industry. They also provide opportunities to network with other aviation professionals and participate in educational programs and events. By staying up-to-date with the latest trends and regulations in the industry, you’ll improve your abilities and enhance your career prospects as a pilot.

Receive Your Medical Certificate

Obtaining a medical certificate is an important step in becoming a pilot because it proves that you’re medically fit to safely operate an aircraft. First, visit an aviation medical examiner (AME), who will test you for a variety of physical and mental issues, from vision to hearing to heart health and more. As a pilot, you must meet certain medical standards to ensure that you can safely perform the duties required of a pilot, by obtaining either a third-class (private pilot), second-class (commercial pilot) or first-class (airline pilot) medical certificate. This is important for the safety of yourself, your passengers, and others in airspace and on the ground, and doesn’t take long to accomplish.

Inflight will help you take-off on a new path after high school

If you’re an aspiring pilot currently in high school, we can help put you on the right path to make your dream of flying come true. Whether you want to work toward a simple private pilot license or have bigger goals of becoming a commercial or airline pilot in the future, our reputable team of certified flight instructors will help you succeed in the world of aviation. 

Ready to take flight? Learn more about Inflight training programs by contacting us today or calling (952) 698-3000.