QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – As the busy travel season continues to bring headaches to some airline passengers, a local flight school says now is a great time to consider becoming a pilot. Part of the recent issues in the industry has been caused by staffing concerns, including a pilot shortage.
“Before COVID, there were too many pilots. A lot of them retired, they haven’t gotten back into it,” said Jim Barrett, the owner of Leaf Air, a flight school operating at the Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport in Queensbury.
He says one of the contributing factors to the shortage is within the pilot pipeline, “Younger people have been spending more time on video games instead of doing the real thing.”
In an effort to combat the shortage, airlines have started raising wages. American Airlines, for instance, is offering pilots a nearly 17% rise by the end of 2024. This summer has also seen some pilots picketing, as unions leverage travel headaches to meet demands.
With these trends, Barrett says now may be a perfect time to become a pilot, “They’re desperately looking for qualified pilots.”
While the need is there, he says it takes time and effort to get your license, “It’s gotta be a commitment, it’s not something you just come in and purchase, you actually have to earn it.”
The first step is getting a private license, and learning to fly on small, single-engine planes like the one students at Leaf Air train on. Amongst other things, the FAA requires a minimum of 40 flying hours to obtain your initial certification.
“Learn the basics, then retain the basics and go from there,” Barrett said about the process.
From there, you can work to obtain additional certifications. To become an airline pilot, the FAA requires a pilot to hold a commercial license, be at least 23-years-old, pass a practical and knowledge test, and have a minimum of 1,500 hours.
With the pilot shortage, Leaf Air says they could see an influx in prospective pilots in the future. The flight school is hosting “Learn to Fly with Leaf Air” next weekend, offering discounted rates to be able to get behind the controls inside the cockpit.