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Global pilot shortage impacting travelers, retirements and flight school costs factors

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Posted at 6:55 PM, Oct 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-24 20:55:44-04

SOUTHERN COLORADO — It's becoming a global problem - a shortage of airline pilots.

With baby boomers retiring, increased training requirements, and how expensive flight school is there's just not enough people in the skies.

Greg Phillips, director of aviation at the Colorado Springs Airport, said ticket prices aren't really affected by this.

Phillips said, "There are times, and we've certainly experienced this, where there isn't another crew available to take that flight so a flight ends up being canceled or delayed significantly."

It's a problem that's hitting regional airports like Colorado Springs. Phillips said one issue is that the requirements for crew time and the hours in a day that they can work have changed in past years.

"What that means is when a pilot times out they can't fly anymore."

Becoming a commercial airline pilot is now more challenging.

"To fly in a commercial air carrier you have to have 1,500 hours of flight time and that changed in 2013. It used to be you had to have 250 hours...makes it very expensive to learn to fly."

No one knows this better than Springs Aviation Flight Instructor Emily Lathen who someday hopes to be a commercial airline pilot.

Lathen said, "I had my stomach in knots deciding do I pay all this money and move forward in aviation?"

But she she knows it'll pay off.

"It's not a career where you pay $100,000 plus in student loans for some degree that's not going to get you anywhere."

Phillips said, "Average starting salary for a regional airline aviation pilot is over $60,000."

For those flying larger aircrafts it's about $137,000.

While Lathen builds up her hours she's teaching students like Connor Boten and Jay Elmore how to fly.

Boten said, "Ever since I started flying I fell in love with it."

Elmore said, "Aviation is a great career to pursue and you get to see things that nobody else will ever get to see."

Phillips said it's estimated there are 830 million people flying each year in the U.S. and by 2025 there could be a billion people flying.

He said, "There is no better time for an individual to think about becoming a pilot."

According to the Regional Airline Association nearly half of today's pilots face mandatory retirement within the next 15 years. The Boeing Pilot Outlook projects 206,000 pilots will be needed in North America by 2038.