There are many reasons why this girl takes to the sky. One reason is that I’m an introvert and I love being alone with my thoughts. My mind can think, dream, dance as far as my eyes can see and beyond the horizon. Ideas are welcome. One of these has been the ever pressing realization that there is a pilot shortage. Let me preface and say I think this word is being misused.
There is not a shortage of people in love with the sky. Let that sink in. Flight exists in the lives of many of us right now. Be it the dreamer staring out the window, the child building a paper airplane, the writer, the photographer, the engineer or maybe it’s someone in love, simply identifying that love, feels like flying.
It isn’t the money that is the issue. I realize many pilots may respond to this in angst. “Marissa I have student loans and no one will become a pilot with those wages.” I disagree. There are doctors that work for nonprofits, who spend their time in low-income communities and did that make their education less expense? No, but the benefit and reward of living a life in service determine how they positioned their sails. Money is not why people do not fly. It’s time. Time with family, time with children, time investing in business startups, PTO, airplane building volunteering, being there for sick family, and so forth…time is the issue.
I’ve worked a career in aviation. Worked the ramp at John Wayne Airport, FBO in Hawaii, flew jumpers, International Trip Planning, Part 121 Airline dispatch for six years and now a pilot at a 121 carrier. There is a common denominator in them all. Love of flight. I worked for managers with thousands of hours in flight time but it was by choice to stay in dispatch to be home at night or managers at FBOs that had small children.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed more and more pilot moms “hanging up their wings” with major and regional airline carriers to raise their children. These women love flying but they also recognize their children are only young once, and the airlines will always be there. The conversation led to the decision by some carriers to let full-time pilots drop their schedule by half. That’s a nice perk on paper but what if I told you dozens, if not hundreds of pilots would apply if you told them they will never fly more than part-time?
The airlines have focused so much on university kids, STEM (which is amazing and worthy, we need to continue this!) and so forth that we haven’t really re-evaluated anything. The pilot pool is everywhere. It’s your passengers who may have been flying, it’s the mom or dad who can’t afford (time) to be away from home, but they are in love with this constant steady blue.
This week is Oshkosh. Where aviators come around all over the country as a family reunion. Look around there is NOT a pilot shortage. Brothers and sisters of the sky all there for one passion. The wild blue. Airlines will also be there… have you ever stopped to wonder how many people would fly if they only flew 6–10 days a month? How many single parents would cross that bridge if they realized suddenly their heart tank could be full reaching their goals and being there for their children?
Instead, airlines focus on universities to recruit. Let me ask you a question.
How’s that working out for you?
I realize training costs seem like they could be a factor. But… not really if you think about it. Weigh in training costs to canceled flights and delays and you’d wind up with a properly staffed airline. You’d also wind up with more enthusiasm on the flight deck. Look around at Oshkosh… they love flying. People love flying. Airlines need to be infused with this more.
So I challenge any airline reading this. The answer isn’t just how can we pay for people’s flight training… it’s getting back to the very reason people took to the skies… the love of flight. Stoke the love in aviation and your pilots, you will soon see, were always there all around you.
Until next time… I’ll be infusing the sky and terminals with this girl’s love and passion for flight.