The current pilot shortage in the United States is real. Its effects are already being felt across both the commercial and private aviation sectors. To counteract this alarming trend, and lighten the financial burden for aspiring pilots, a private jet charter company has launched a new scholarship program.
Joel Thomas, president and CEO of Stratos Jet Charters, a jet charter broker based in Orlando, Florida, is thrilled to be able to assist the next crop of would-be pilots, while simultaneously promoting the industry he loves.
“I’m also a pilot, so I know how expensive the training can be,” says Thomas, noting flight training for a commercial pilot can often exceed $100,000. “Aviation has done so much for me and I want to share it with others.”
Joel Thomas, president and CEO of Stratos Jet Charters.
To be eligible for the $2,000 Stratos scholarship, students must be on track to a career in aviation, have a 3.0 GPA and be enrolled in post-secondary studies. Other application guidelines and details are available on the Stratos Jet Charters scholarship page.
According to a report by CNN in mid-July, the pilot shortage in the US is reaching critical levels. The reason for the shortfall is a classic case of supply and demand. First, the number of working pilots has continually decreased over the past three decades. Second, the demand for both private and commercial air travel has risen dramatically in recent years.
The shortage of skilled pilots can be attributed to a range of factors, including retirement and mass furloughs stemming from the economic recession in 2008. Furthermore, the US military, which was once a significant source for recruitment, is producing fewer pilots than it once did.
In order to work in the private jet charter industry, pilots are typically required to have an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) certificate, which represents the highest standard of training in civilian aviation in the United States. On top of that, companies like Stratos Jets will only work with operators whose pilots meet set standards for skill and experience.
For example, to serve as the captain of a charter flight, a pilot must have a minimum of 3,000 flight hours, half of which are logged as captain. Similarly, the first officer needs a minimum of 1,000 hours, half served as captain.
“Client safety is our highest concern,” says Thomas. “Working with reputable operators who maintain their aircraft and invest in ongoing pilot training is just one example of how we provide the widest margin of safety possible.”
In many cases, a pilot working for a jet charter operator will have started his or her career in the commercial sector. Once they accumulate enough flight time, they can then transition into private aviation.
However, that trend is now starting to reverse itself, thanks to the pilot shortage. Major airlines are recruiting heavily to maintain their staffing levels. Many are luring pilots by offering superior salary and benefit packages, as well as more predictable scheduling.
The result is increased costs for consumers.
Thomas is confident that the jet charter industry will continue to attract skilled pilots, thanks in part to initiatives such as the pilot scholarship.
“Part of our challenge will be in promoting private aviation and letting pilots and flight schools know that there is plenty of opportunity in our industry,” he says. “This scholarship is a step in the right direction.”
BlueSky Business Aviation News | 27th September 2018 | Issue #479
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