Aviation Industry Sees Rapidly Growing Demand for Pilots

UND hopes to get people interested in aviation early on

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — If you think there have more delayed or canceled flights over the past few years, there are several reasons for that.

“It’s not just the pilot shortage, it’s even the number of routes, size of airplanes that are being used today, so there’s multiple factors that are being looked at,” Jeremy Roesler, chief flight instructor at UND, said.

The pilot shortage is just one piece of the puzzle: a worldwide problem that’s struggling to keep up with the demands of travelers.

According to Boeing, there will be a worldwide demand for nearly 800,000 pilots over the next 20 years, with the Asia Pacific region with the most demand, followed by North America.

“It’s already happening. That’s a fact. There’s already airlines that have had to cancel routes, cancel flights, because of staffing,” Roesler said.

What caused this rapid decline? Experts say 9/11, furloughs, and airlines going bankrupt all play into the problem.

Aviation is also a stress-filled profession.

“There is a stress level in the cockpit, flying a multimillion dollar aircraft or in air traffic control, making sure people don’t crash into each other, the stress level and attention to detail in aviation is super high, and if you don’t love it, then it might not be for you,” Ben Eidem, an air traffic control student, said.

But it’s passion for flight that drives the thousand plus students in UND’s aerospace program. Students from around the world go to Grand Forks to learn to fly.

“You wouldn’t think it’s here in Grand Forks, the epicenter of some pilot training that’s going on, but it is, and it’s here at UND,” Roesler said.

Students logged 700 flight hours in one day. The school hopes to get more students interested in the field early on with programs like Aerospace Camp for high schoolers and Aerospace Day for families.

Every student who goes through the UND aerospace program will do an aircraft simulator which lets them practice everything from takeoff to landing to emergencies.

“It’s not just how to fly an airplane. It’s good decision making, it’s safety, it’s being a professional, it’s fitting into today’s industry,” Roesler said.

To recruit pilots, many airlines, especially regional ones, are offering hiring and retention bonuses.

“I don’t let the shortage determine where I need to go. I go where I feel like I fit in. I’m not going to use the pilot shortage as, ‘oh that’s the reason I become a pilot.’ I became a pilot because I like to fly,” commercial aviation student Kunal Sujanani said.

“I love the logistics of it, just how to get passengers and cargo from point A to point B, and not letting two airplanes touch each other mid-air, all the logistics, the complexities of the system, it’s just so complicated, but yet so simplistic in its perception of the public,” Eidem said.

“It’s a different environment every day. The cockpit might the same, but the sky conditions, the weather is dynamic. Brings a wide variety of experiences,” Sujanani said.

Those experiences that are fueling students to take off.

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