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Learning to fly

There are a lot of folks out there lamenting the fact that fewer and fewer young people want to get into aviation, specifically at the front of the plane in the cockpit and I’ve been wondering why myself.  The obvious reasons are there of course, starting with money and time, but I can still recall that flying for many of us pilots started with passion not practicality.  For most folks flying isn’t a job you saw in the newspaper and decided to give it a try because you needed a paycheck.  It starts with excitement, and for many that excitement came from the typical sources.

  1. You were lucky enough to know a pilot and you went up in GA aircraft as a kid.
  2. You flew enough commercially and were fascinated by the experience. This was the way I got excited about flying.
  3. You tried it once like many things and just couldn’t stop

While #1 and #3 happen all the time, I worry that they don’t happen with enough frequency to feed the demand for pilots so what about #2?  Well in the post-9/11 era getting a kid into a cockpit of a commercial airliner requires the approval of both houses of congress and the president and since those folks can’t agree on anything it’s not going to happen.  An opportunity lost, but many still remain.  Here are a few ideas of mine, I’m sure you’ll have many more.

  • Inflight magazines could devote a few articles to the actual flying part of the airline – flight experiences, the bringing on of a new aircraft into the fleet, theory of flying – really how does that plane get in the air?
  • Learning programs for schools through the airport – aircraft are always going through maintenance and you’d imagine there’s enough time to get a tour through and a discussion with  a pilot or two.
  • Sim opportunities – I know Level D sims are expensive, but for those who express an interest get kids in the sim with a pilot, let them experience the excitement.

Learning to fly is probably one of the most exciting and rewarding things I’ve done, in fact I still feel like a kid every time I go up, and the highest volume way we will impact kids interest in flying is through commercial aviation.  So if you’re with an airline, help us get there.  I’m sure it won’t be easy, getting things done never is, but consider it an investment in the future of your airline.  We already know there’s a pilot shortage coming, maybe this will make it a little easier to tackle.