Demand for pilots expected to soar - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Demand for pilots expected to soar

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

The demand for one occupation is starting to take off. The airline industry is predicting what could be the biggest surge in pilot hiring in history.

It's one of the most exciting ways to make a living, and the good news is industry experts predict the airlines will need thousands of pilots over the next few decades. Flight training centers are already gearing up for the extra demand.

"With the attrition rate of the airlines and new job opportunities, I think there is a looming pilot shortage on the horizon," Tony Robbins said.

Robbins is the chief flight instructor for ATD Flight Systems, which operates out of Kansas City's Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. He said the combination of the rapidly expanding aviation industry in Asia and an expected onslaught of retirements by American airline pilots has many predicting a need for thousands of new commercial aviators over the next 10 to 20 years.

If the need goes unmet, Robbins said that could mean more flight delays and longer lines at the airport.

ATD is expanding its operations to take on more student pilots, including 16-year-old Nathan Eckenberg.

"People think it's crazy because I tell them I will have my full pilot's license before I have my full driver's license," Eckenberg said.

The teen has dreamed of being a commercial pilot for years and said knowing there will be a job waiting for him gives him even more confidence in his career choice.

"I've always wanted to do it, and knowing there's going to be a lot of opportunities out there for me, that makes the passion grow and grow and make me want to do my best so I can get the best job out there and still do what I love to do," Eckenberg said.

While flight training isn't cheap, many groups do offer scholarships for those who might be interested.

The threat of a pilot shortage first surfaced during the George W. Bush administration, so he pushed back the mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots from 60 to 65. That was five years ago.

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