Pilot shortage puts strain on travel

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 9:47 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 4, 2021 at 10:29 PM CDT
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MADISONVILLE, Ky. (WFIE) - Pilot shortages have been affecting airlines across the country.

Madisonville Community College’s Aviation Program Director Todd Smith spoke with 14 News and explained that the industry often fluctuates, which causes shortages.

“As newer models of airplanes fly farther, the world opens up,” he said. “It creates that natural shortage.”

He said it’s always a struggle to fill open positions because it requires anywhere from six to ten years to become a pilot for a major airline, and that can be a deterrent for many would-be aviators.

With a shortage already growing in 2019, Smith said the COVID-19 pandemic made circumstances worse.

“Airlines did a lot of downsizing through numerous different methods - a lot of furloughing and early retirements,” he said.

This created a large deficit, and it has started to affect passengers.

“It creates an instant like what we saw with Southwest Airlines a few weeks ago where thousands - I know hundreds, maybe even thousands of flights had to be canceled,” he said.

Still, Smith said the industry has ways of recovering.

Typically, he said they will partner with universities and flight schools to make learning more accessible and to create straighter paths to employment.

He said it’s just a matter of time before the situation improves.

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