by Dave Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer June/July 2017
While our elected officials in Washington can’t seem to agree on anything to better our country, many of us in aviation are working to attract more young people to our industry, despite an apparent lack of coordinated efforts between general aviation and the airlines. While those of us in general aviation are out beating the drum in our schools, giving away scholarships, and promoting programs like EAA Young Eagles, high school STEM programs, and aviation career days at airports, the airlines are attracting new hires by finally increasing wages and benefits.
For instance, Air Wisconsin announced in May that it has increased its pay and benefits for new pilot hires to include cash bonuses up to $57,000, including $8,000 for pilots who are type rated in turbine aircraft. During the first three years, a new pilot will receive up to $317,000 in wages and elected benefits – enough to help cover their education to get in the right seat of a CRJ-200. Promotions to captain take only 18 to 24 months, and Air Wisconsin pilots can then move to United Airlines through United’s Career Pathway Program (www.airwis.com/pilots).
Seeing our youth heading for professional flying careers is encouraging, but more needs to be done to promote careers in aircraft maintenance by 1) providing wages which are competitive with pilot wages, 2) raising the status of the profession by recognizing technical skills and responsibilities, 3) pointing out the benefits of the profession, like normal work hours and being home at night and on weekends, and 4) providing more scholarships and tuition reimbursement.
Usually, when the airlines and general aviation talk, it is about the pros and cons of privatizing the air traffic control system, which we are at odds. Maybe if we worked together on promoting aviation careers, we would have common ground that could carry over for better relations overall.