With pilot shortage, Alberta aviation schools are on the brink of crash

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With shortage of pilots, Alberta aviation schools are on the brink of crash

Rising costs and high demand for pilots are causing headaches for Alberta flight schools.

Alberta flight schools struggle to stay afloat due to rising costs and high demand for airline pilots caused by the current shortage, say industry members.

Airlines have laid off many employees [during the pandemic], prompting many pilots to retire, leave the industry or move to other countries where aviation has more support than in Canada, explains Tim Perry, the president of the Canadian branch of the Air Line Pilots Association.

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< p class="e-p">The same shortage that is fueling strong competition between the big players in commercial aviation is pushing schools to the limit of crushing, for lack of instructors and students.

The schools furthest from major centers are most likely to disappear first, according to Wayne Gouveia, senior vice-president of the Air Transport Association of Canada.

They don't simply do not have the volume [of students] sufficient to support the infrastructure required to continue to operate.

The shortage of pilots that already existed before the pandemic was accentuated when the deconfinement began. When the industry took off again, there was a strong demand for young pilots, notes Tim Perry, which forced schools to adapt.

The Cooking Lake Aviation School, for example, has partnered with Solomon College to offer a training program based on the idea that qualified pilots are more likely to succeed in their careers.

We recognize that most airlines have a high regard for pilots with post-secondary education, says Lawrence Lau, the school's general manager.

One ​​of great obstacles to the will of future pilots is the cost of training, which makes it inaccessible for many.

The cost of fuel and spare parts for the aircraft used is billed to students, while the financial support offered to students who want to obtain a commercial pilot's license is limited, explains Lawrence Lau.

You won't have anyone who isn't at least middle class if you don't remove the [financial] barriers, says Edmonton Flying Club chief instructor Sophia Wells.

According to Lawrence Lau, this financial obstacle particularly affects low-income families, as well as women and people with an immigrant background.

To the operating costs of the devices, it must be added the difficulty of recruiting instructors, because there are few incentives for new pilots to convince them to become instructors after obtaining their license, explains John Green, general manager and vice-president of North Cariboo Air , in Calgary.

It is concerning for us to see so few pilots becoming instructors, which reduces our ability to train new pilots and thus fill the positions at the bottom and middle of the scale, he notes.

This shortage could first affect specialized services, such as those of air ambulances and airlines in the Greater North. There is a middle industry that we risk starving out if we are not careful, warns John Green.

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