The demand for pilots increases as travel increases. TCC’s aviation program is working to stimulate supply.
After COVID restrictions and fears of catching the virus hampered air travel for the past two summers, summer 2022 was set to be the industry’s big comeback.
But pent-up demand for travel has been triggered by the consequences of too much pressure on beleaguered airlines struggling with staff shortages, higher fuel costs and other challenges, resulting in long queues and flight delays or cancellations.
More than 2 million passengers passed through TSA security checkpoints across the country, peaking this year on July 1, when around 2.5 million people passed through checkpoints to board planes. On the same day in 2020, only 718,988 passed through these checkpoints.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport saw 6.8 passengers in June, up from 6.35 million in June 2021, according to an airport report.
“There is a desperate need for more pilots,” said Chad Weigand, chair of the flight department at the Erma C. Johnson Hadley Center for Aviation, Technology and Logistics at Tarrant County College’s Northwestern Campus.
With more people traveling, advances in technology and other changes, the demand for additional pilots and other trained personnel will continue, Weigand said.
Critical pilot shortages were identified as early as 2008, but problems have worsened during the pandemic as flight instruction has been reduced by closures and airlines have offered early retirement packages to pilots and other employees like cost reduction measures.
Meanwhile, the largest group of airline pilots is in the age bracket of 50 to 64, rapidly approaching the mandatory retirement age of 65. Congress raised the retirement age by 60 in 2007 to try to avert a crisis.
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Congressional Republicans are again considering a bill to raise the retirement age for pilots to 67. The Allied Pilots Association, which represents 14,000 American Airlines pilots, opposes the plan.
“It is not at all clear that raising the retirement age for pilots would actually increase the supply of pilots,” Captain Eric Ferguson, president of the pilots association, said in a statement. “Furthermore, while it may not be less safe, ‘maybe not’ should never be a justification on which to base safety-sensitive decisions in our industry.
A new Boeing Co. report on the state of commercial air travel shows that demand for new staff in airlines until 2041 is 602,000 pilots, 610,000 aircraft technicians and 899,000 cabin crew. North America alone needs 435,000 new employees.
Programs like TCC’s Center for Aviation, Technology and Logistics are trying to fill the void with programs for professional pilots and aviation maintenance technicians.
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“Personnel is a growing global issue, which is why we at TCC are looking at how we can strengthen the plate,” Weigand said.
Although there are many private flight schools that train pilots, college programs such as TCC offer perks that include an associate’s degree upon completion. And, TCC is the only school in North Texas to offer the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part-141 flight training program.
Another advantage is the possibility of scholarships and veterans benefits to help cover tuition that is not available at commercial flight schools.
But even with financial aid, the cost of a diploma program with airline pilot certification can cost between $68,000 and $72,000, including the cost of aircraft rental fees, insurance , tuition and other expenses. The training of future helicopter pilots, offered by the TCC program, costs more than $100,000.
Despite the demand for more pilots and the opportunity of this well-paying career, the expense of training and education has been detrimental.
“People who want to do this have to convince themselves that they’re ready to take on the debt,” Weigand said. “Our program is rigorous but it paves the way for the airline pipeline.”
Alternative routes to becoming a pilot include training academies offered by some airlines, including American Airlines, but slots are limited and competition is tough, Weigand said.
Even the military, which has always been the ultimate training ground for airline pilots, offers no guarantees that recruits will be selected for pilot training, according to Weigand, a former airline pilot. A military-trained pilot must also commit up to 10 years in service, with the ability to fly in combat missions.
TCC’s Aircraft Maintenance Technician program was founded in 1967 and has trained hundreds of mechanics over the years. Approximately 200 students are currently enrolled and 187 students graduated in the 2021-22 school year.
Introduced in 2014, the commercial pilot training program has approximately 150 enrollments and graduated 51 students in 2021-22.
The TCC program is one of the few not-for-profit flight programs in Texas. Its use of the FAA’s Part-141 flight training program allows graduates to apply for restricted airline pilot certification, an option that shortens the path to certification for people as young as 21 and with just under 10 years of age. hours of flight training time.
All of the benefits of TCC’s program, including its status as one of the largest aviation training centers in Texas with $3 million in training equipment, ticked all the boxes for Ft. resident Anique Jonathan Fazal Din. Worth whose lifelong dream was to become an airline pilot.
At 38, Fazal Din is just as excited to be on his way to the career he wanted at 18, when circumstances got in his way.
Originally from Pakistan, Fazal Din immigrated to the United States and arrived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area when he was around 13 years old. While planning to graduate from Grand Prairie High School in 2002, he told a school guidance counselor about his career dream.
“I was told that was probably not a good idea,” he said. “A guy from Pakistan couldn’t become an airline pilot a year after the 9/11 attacks.”
Although he enjoyed studying and learning, Fazal Din found it difficult to find direction. He tried college, but couldn’t stick to it. So he was playing drums in a band. Eventually he got married and started a family.
Then he obtained his American citizenship and became a stockbroker for Fidelity.
But he never gave up on his dream.
In 2019, he attended a briefing about TCC’s flight training program and decided that was what he would do. He quit his job at Fidelity and used his retirement savings to cover the costs. Having a wife who could support the family financially also helped.
On July 5, he completed his final requirements and graduated from TCC’s commercial pilot program with an associate’s degree.
His next goal is a flight instructor position, where 95% of graduates from TCC’s flight program begin their careers.
Most TCC graduates initially work for US Aviation, a supplier to Envoy Air and a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines. Through TCC’s partnership with Envoy Air, graduates who begin as Envoy flight instructors have the opportunity to progress through its pilot pipeline program to major U.S. airlines such as American, United, Delta and Southwest, officials said. of TCC.
Fazal Din’s ultimate goal is American Airlines.
“I’m ready, I’m delighted,” he said. “It’s my dream come true.”
The starting salary for flight instructors is $24,000 per year, but the median annual salary for all pilots was $134,630 in 2021. However, airline pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers earned a median annual salary of $202,180 in 2021.
The median annual salary for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $65,380 in 2021, according to the federal agency.
TCC will soon be launching a new program with Tarrant County High Schools that will allow students to earn double credit from their schools and TCC in flight and maintenance classroom instruction via distance learning.