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Workforce shortage in the airline industry: 'A quiet crisis, so to speak'

Workforce shortage in airline industry
Posted at 6:30 PM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 19:55:51-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — From pilots to maintenance technicians and cabin crew members, Boeing reports there will be thousands of people needed to fill positions in the next 20 years — but there aren't enough people filling the slots.

"This has been kind of a quiet crisis, so to speak," Theodore Johnson, an instructor with UNO's Aviation Institute, said.

Flight instructors say there's a shortage of pilots because more experienced ones are retiring, and not enough people are getting the itch to fly.

"When the major airlines — when they have their retirements and guys leaving the industry — what they do is they pull their numbers up from the regional airlines. When the regional airlines pull their numbers up, they pull from the flight instructor rank. It's just a continuous cycle," said Jerome Howard, Chief Flight Instructor of Revv Aviation, a flight school at the Council Bluffs Municipal Airport.

Howard admits that the industry could always improve its outreach to underrepresented populations like women and people of color.

"For so long, everybody thought if you're gonna be a pilot, you have to be from the military or you have to be from this particular ethnic group or whatever and that's not the case," Howard said.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a little over 3% of aircraft pilots and flight engineers are Black or African-American. Johnson says this needs to change.

"Representation matters, and I always say that. The more people of color and diversity we can have in these outreach and leadership positions, I think the better it will be for our youth," Johnson said.

If more people don't fill these roles, Johnson predicts a grim outlook — like higher ticket prices and fewer flights for travelers to catch.

"Less planes in the air, more planes on the ground with people stuck," Johnson said.

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