CHICAGO (CBS) — There are concerns about the growing shortage of airline pilots.
Chicago-based United Airlines is so worried, it announced Wednesday it’s buying its own flight school.
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole has more on the drastic solution to fill the cockpit.
The need for pilots is staggering and there’s stiff competition to hire them.
So what United is doing with this move is it’s training potential pilots and getting them directly into the company’s employment pipeline.
He’s only a high school senior, but Jalynn Westmoreland, a budding pilot, has already logged dozens of hours in a flight simulator at Chicago’s Air Force Academy High School.
“I really like video games and this is like a video game I can play everyday,” Westmoreland said.
But the problem is there aren’t enough Westmorelands out there.
“I just love aviation,” Westmoreland added.
Just ask his instructor.
“There is such a pilot shortage,” said Air Force Academy High School instructor Kristen Arambula. “The airlines just started recognizing this two to three years ago.”
With mandatory retirement at 65, it’s estimated the industry will need close to 600,000 pilots worldwide over the next 20 years.
“There’s such a high demand for jobs,” Arambula said.
United Airlines alone plans to hire 10,000 new pilots over the next decade. That’s why it’s purchased the Westwind School of Aeronautics in Phoenix for an undisclosed sum.
It gives the airline the ability to directly train and recruit many of those future employees.
With classes starting in the fall, United hopes to graduate and filter its first 300 students to regional carriers by next spring.
United also seeks to recruit more women and minorities into the not-so-diverse industry, something pilot Kristen Arambuula understands very well.
“I was two out of 30 females in my aviation class back when I was in college,” she said.
United isn’t alone.
American Airlines has a similar recruitment and training program. Though Westmoreland already registered for aviation studies at college, he likes being part of a career that’s flying high.
“It’s kind of weird to be a part of that,” Westmoreland said.
Starting pay for pilots at one of the regional airports is kind of small, around $20,000 a year. But make it to major airlines, they can earn upwards of $200,000 a year. No wonder he’s like to sit in the cockpit.