Training program in New Bern aims to address pilot shortage

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NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — A recent study by Boeing shows a staggering pilot shortage in the United States over the next two decades.

The study states nearly 90 pilots will need to be trained to fly a commercial plane every day to meet the shortage, which comes down to one every 15 minutes.

“There’s a lot of pilots retiring that were post-Vietnam, and in the Cold War age,” said Andy Shorter, the director of Coastal Carolina Airport in New Bern. “Some of the retiring and military pilots (are) getting out of the industry. So they are all in the same age group, so they are all aging out. There’s not the same economy and scale of pilots being trained now as there was back in the 80s.”

That’s where Tradewind Aviation, a flight school based out of Coastal Carolina Regional Airport, comes in. Darrel Gilbertson, an instructor at the school, works with airlines to train commercial pilots in eastern North Carolina.

“It affects the economy here because we have less flights, meaning less revenue for the airport, less fuel sales here in New Bern,” Gilbertson said.

Gilbertson said higher demand for pilots means a higher salary, making it the perfect time for someone to pursue their passion.

“Every pilot counts,” said Gilbertson. “So if we can help one person go from no experience to enough experience to get a job, every pilot counts, and that’s really helping the industry.”

Shorter said being a pilot is an excellent opportunity.

“It’s a dynamic industry and it’s always moving forward,” said Shorter. “…You get to see more of the world than probably anyone else.”

One advantage the school the possesses is its proximity to several military locations like MCAS New River and Camp Lejeune.

It takes around eight months for someone with no experience to get certified and just around three weeks for those with military pilot experience.

The school is currently training 20 people and looking for more.

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