Airlines face pilot shortage as travel increases

Local pilot advocates for high school flight classes

By Megan Wehring

HAYS COUNTY — Now that the summer travel surge is in full swing, the search for pilots is vital for the airline industry.

“There was already an expected pilot shortage over the next decade or so,” said Robert Greene, flight instructor at Black Hound Aviation, “due to the number of airline pilots that are hitting retirement age.”

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed travel down and many employees took leaves of absence or early retirement packages. U.S. airlines are seeing at least 2 million travelers a day, compared to more than 700,000 travelers at the same time last year.

While he has seen an influx of older students eager to start flight training, Greene was perplexed to hear that school districts rarely mention the aviation profession.

“Most of them are over the age of 18 or college age,” Greene explained. “But very few young people are even aware of aviation as a profession. It’s just something that’s not talked about in the public school system at all.”

Hays High School alum Michael Craig grew up watching his father work as an airline pilot, so it was natural for him to want to follow in his footsteps. But he had to look beyond the high school classroom to earn his pilot license before graduating.

“Flying spoke to me,” Craig said. “If anyone has an interest in something, they should follow it.”

Craig finished flight school at Black Hound Aviation based at the San Marcos Regional Airport, which is one of few airports located in Hays County.

“We have not planned to offer any type of flight school,” said Tim Savoy, chief communications officer for Hays CISD. “That is traditionally something that is a third-party endeavor. I couldn’t say for sure because we have not looked into it, but I would imagine it would be pretty cost prohibitive considering the cost of plane rental or ownership, jet fuel and flight instructors.”

Hays CISD is working to establish an Air Force JROTC at Johnson High School, according to Savoy. If the program goes through, there may be a curriculum regarding the history of planes but it would not include a flight school.

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