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Economy and Business

Crisis looms in filling aviation industry jobs in Ohio and the nation
Ohio schools and universities are recruiting students to fill a looming shortage in the aviation industry 


Karen Kasler
The aviation industry is working with colleges and universities and with flight schools to encourage more kids to consider career options in aviation.
Courtesy of Schwartz, Flickr, CC
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In The Region:
The aviation industry is growing, and that means hundreds of thousands of openings for qualified job seekers.

Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler reports experts in the state known as the “birthplace of aviation” say now’s the time to launch efforts to fill those jobs.
Karen Kasler on expanding aviation jobs

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Half a million pilots will be needed around the world in the next 20 years, according to aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

“And that’s just for the commercial airlines," according to Ohio State University's director of aviation studies, Seth Young.  He says "far more pilots are needed for every other aspect of the aviation industry, as well as airport managers, air traffic controllers, engineers – the gamut.”

Young says the pilot shortage is the most visible one in the industry – traceable to a growth in aviation around the world and cutbacks in the U.S. military, where many pilots have gotten their training. Butlearning to fly in a small propeller plane and transforming it into taking a jet into the skies isn’t easy; there’s math and physics and engineering courses.

Education is expensive
And isn’t cheap. It can cost well over $100,000 for college-level flight training, and most graduates end up with only about 250 hours of flight time. So they work as flight instructors to build up the time they need to get hired as commercial pilots. When that happens, the salary often starts around $20,000. But Young sees it like a career in medicine.

“When you spend a lot of money going through college and medical school, you end up in a residency program where you’ll work hard, long hours, and don’t get paid that much," according to Young. But eventually, he says, "you have a tremendously lucrative and successful career. Aviation is basically the same thing.”

Air traffic controller shortage looms
There are problems filling other aviation positions, such as air traffic controllers, who guide aircraft in the skies.

Richard Mangrum is an associate professor of aeronautics at Kent State, and he says the air traffic controllers' shortage is already hitting, with as many as 13,000 controllers needed in the next few years. And Mangrum says the impact of unfilled positions all across the industry are going to hit travelers soon – especially those who fly on the smaller, regional airlines.

“They’re going to start parking airplanes. That would probably trigger an increase in prices because of the lack of availability of route structure. And if there’s not trained air traffic controllers, it doesn’t matter how many pilot there are – we’re going to have safety issues.”

And Mangrum says airports get revenue from airlines, so when fewer planes are operating, there’s less money for airport maintenance.

Averting an aviation crisis
To try to handle the coming crisis, the aviation industry is working with flight departments at colleges and universities and with flight schools to encourage more kids to consider all sorts of career options in aviation. And they’re working with programs such as Youth Aviation Adventure, which operates in 28 locations in 17 states, including at Ohio State’s Don Scott airport.

Executive director Tim Beach runs a one-day program that brings in scouting and other youth groups to show them other career paths in aviation besides being pilots. "Pilots are very important, but there are thousands of other jobs in aviation that they should know about.”

And there are potentially plenty of aviation jobs in Ohio. Young from Ohio State says Ohio industries are No. 1 aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus. There are 80 public use airports in Ohio. The airspace overseen by air traffic controllers in Cleveland is among the busiest in the nation.

And Ohio is home to several charter operators and two fractional jet companies, including the Warren Buffet-owned NetJets in Columbus, which has the largest private jet fleet in the world.

Listener Comments:

i listened to this on Monday. i study from Mbarara high school found in Uganda Africa and i want to became an engineer please help me and connect me to that university

Posted by: Gilbert Bems (Uganda) on March 24, 2015 5:03AM
I listened to this story yesterday morning on the radio and just want to add this comment. My son went to school to train as an air traffic controller, and graduated four years ago. He has waited patiently, but has never heard a thing from the FAA, and I know he isn't the only one. There has been minimal hiring of air traffic controllers and now there is a huge back log of people that have gone to school and are waiting for the call. I think it is wrong to report this as a good job prospect, when in fact, it is not. Maybe a little more research? Thanks for your time. Virginia

Posted by: Virginia Mason (Montville, Ohio) on July 9, 2014 7:07AM
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