School Delays across the Tennessee Valley

Nationwide pilot shortage could affect Huntsville International Airport

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- You may be looking around for your next career -- but maybe where you should be looking is up.

"They have a significant number of pilots that are going to be retiring in the next decade," explained International Airport Executive Director Rick Tucker.

And by significant, Tucker means 50 to 75 percent. Pair that with a growing demand for travel -- and you have a nationwide pilot shortage.

"But if they are not able to keep up, then it's going to be the small communities that are going to suffer and we are going to be one of those that are going to suffer," Tucker said.

HSV and airports like it rely on regional carriers. If they don't get more people in the cockpit - experts say HSV is one of many airports that could lose nonstop service to some destinations, and ticket prices could go up.

It doesn't help that it now takes more time and money to become a pilot, but it's still a great career path.

"Once you get into the system, the opportunity to grow rapidly and start making well over 100,000 and even 150,000 is there within the industry," said Tucker.

Tucker adds it's a career that simply isn't on the radar of a lot of young people. As the shortage worsens, airlines and universities are swooping in to highlight the opportunity to get students in the pipeline.

"They're making it more affordable for people to step in," Tucker said.

Their fixed-base operator signature offers flight training and a revived bus rolling around the Valley also exposes aviation to a younger crowd.

"Flyquest is a nonprofit organization that is now offering the opportunity to learn how to fly," explained Tucker. "They have a mobile classroom now going around to schools and special events throughout the region. That allows young people to see the opportunities and career opportunities in aviation."

Aviation careers arent limited to the captain. There are opportunities as air traffic controllers, ground crew, and the list goes on.

"If you're a young person and you like aviation, it's a great opportunity, a great time to get engaged and start the process of looking at a career opportunity in the airline industry, at being a pilot," said Tucker.

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