High school students may be answer to overcoming pilot shortage

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (KBSI) – Vienna High School started an aviation pipeline program in partnership with Southern Illinois University School of Aviation.

“It gets a lot more people interested into it,” said Dayton Nichols, a Vienna High School student. “Then just kind of hearing about it and just watching YouTube or whatever, however they hear about it, you know, they get to come out here watch the planes and helicopters and then kind of see hands on.”

Under the direction of instructor Wade Stewart, Vienna High School started an aviation pipeline program in partnership with Southern Illinois University School of Aviation.

The partnership allows Vienna students to take courses that have been aligned with the SIU program.

This kind of partnership can be vital in helping the pilot and mechanic shortage.

“Basically what we’re dealing with is, the pilots from the Vietnam era, or that learned back in that time are all retired and there have not been people to replace them,” said Don Morris, an assistant professor with SIU Aviation Technologies. “And in the last 10 years the industry has gone from yawn, ‘You’re another pilot or you’re another mechanic. We’ll see if we have a job for you,’ to almost being desperate, ‘We need you.'”

“Anytime that we get young people interested in the careers that are out there, I think that’s a huge help in terms of addressing any shortage,” said Joshua Stafford, Vienna High School superintendent.

Maintenance workers, pilots, and various other careers are in high demand in the aviation field.

“I was just saying earlier, wages have gone from $20,000 for starting wages up to something $70,000 plus for starting wages in the last 10 years. And there is no end in sight. It is an excellent time to get into a technical career,” said Morris.

Vienna has also partnered with other area schools and agencies and participated in SIU’s Automotive and Aviation Day over the last few years.

“My aviation class at Vienna High School, we actually got to come out here last Friday and fly hands-on,” said Dayton Nichols. “So, we actually got to go in the air, and fly and do a bunch of procedures in the air.”

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Vienna High School starts aviation program

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