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CWU purchases aircraft to increase airline careers

CWU purchases aircraft to increase airline careers

ELLENSBURG, Wash.- More people are traveling than ever before, and with the recent wave of retired pilots, plus new FAA regulations, airports and travelers are starting to experience the clash.

"There's a pilot shortage not just in the United States, there's a pilot shortage throughout the world. We've seen this coming, the industry has seen this coming, and it is beginning to have effects now," said Paul Ballard, Dean of The College of Education and Professional Studies.

Pilot programs throughout the country are starting to increase opportunities for new pilots. One of them being the aviation program at Central Washington University, who recently added six leased aircraft, purchased one used aircraft, and in two weeks the school will have five brand new aircraft.

"We're gearing our program to handle more students to try and increase the number of pilots we are producing," said Ballard.

160 students are currently enrolled in the aviation pilot program, but soon Ballard says they want to increase that number to nearly 250 students.

"It's actually really exciting and nothing that I've actually seen before in the past. Just having new airplanes here and having them actually come fresh from the factory rather than something that's an old model that we have to train in," said Deicoh Florentine, Student Communications Specialist/Dispatcher at CWU.

Yakima airport has seen a hit from the shortage.

"Mostly it has been the occasional cancellation of flights just because they only have a limited number of pilots and the pilots are strictly limited on the number of hours their allowed to fly every month," said Rick Stein, Manager of Operations and Maintenance at Yakima Air Terminal.

Stein says the recent change in FAA requirements played a big role in why there's a shortage at our local airport and around the world.

"A few years ago, Congress has passed a law saying that airline pilots had to have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time in order to be an airline pilot. That cut a lot of people because 1,500 hours is a lot of time," said Stein.

It caused flight training to be more expensive, and smaller airline companies like Yakima didn't pay pilots very much money.

"Now that's starting to change, the airlines are starting to pay more starting salaries to their pilot employees, and you have organizations like Central Washington University who are ramping up their flight departments in order to provide the flow of new pilots to replace retiring pilots," said Stein.

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