Opportunities in Aviation Taking Off

MARYWOOD UNIVERSITY -- Students in Lackawanna County who are studying to become pilots met a potential new employer on Thursday. It's part of a nationwide effort to curb a shortage in commercial pilots.

On a sunny day like this, many of the aviation students at Marywood University would be doing flight practice at the Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport.

Instead, they're in a classroom meeting with a potential first employer: Republic Airways.

"Usually you have to go and seek employers, so you know, we definitely appreciate the fact that people are taking the time to come to us," said senior Momar Fall. "I'm definitely happy that stuff like this is happening for us."

Republic and other regional airlines are making an effort to catch aviation students before they graduate.

"Because of the FAA's mandatory retirement age, all commercial pilots have to retire at 65, so we can look at those numbers, you know, over the next 10 to 20 years and you can see that those super-high," said Valerie Penn from Republic Airways.

That shortage is something program director Capt. Joe McDonald sees firsthand in his other job as a pilot with American Airlines.

"We're retiring about 750 pilots this year and that's just one airline, so you take that, multiply that, there's quite a need and you can look at it by looking at recruitment like this," McDonald said.

Republic Airways hopes these are the numbers that influence the students to get a job with them they start at $45 an hour and can make $50,000 a year in their first year with the company.

Republic says new hires also have more opportunities to move up faster. They say that's something aspiring pilots will see industry-wide.

"All the airlines are kind of coming together and figuring out what works best to connect with the communities that may not have otherwise considered aviation as a career," Penn said.

"If they get hired in the next few years, they probably won't look backwards, they'll always be going upward," McDonald added.

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