Aeronautics enrollment rises as airlines seek more pilots

Enrollment in Averett University’s aeronautics program has soared, the Danville school reports, from about 40 students a few years ago to more than 100 now.

More and more young people recognize that demand for pilots is increasing, says Travis Williams, the university’s chief flight instructor.

Boeing’s 2018 Pilot & Technician Outlook, released in July, projects a demand for 790,000 pilots during the next 20 years, double the current workforce.

Airline representatives are visiting campuses and recruiting through social media, Williams says. “Over the last two or three years, the word has kind of spread” about the shortage and “starting salaries have almost tripled.”

He believes students choose his school because “you know if you come to Averett you’re going to be in an airplane right away. Our students fly the first year. The first week of school, students are out flying already.”

Another attraction is the university’s partnership with Piedmont Airlines and PSA Airlines Inc., both of which are subsidiaries of the American Airlines Group.

“It’s a pretty good deal,” says Williams. There’s tuition reimbursement, and students can build up hours working as instructors. “Once they hit the minimum hours of flight training, they head to the airlines.”

Averett is one of about a dozen Virginia colleges and technical schools with aviation and/or aeronautics programs.

The university plans to cap enrollment in its program at 125, Williams says, because “we don’t want to get too big. We want to give one-on-one attention.” Total enrollment at Averett is about 860.

Most students hope to become commercial airline pilots, but aviation jobs also are available in surveying, forestry, crop dusting, law enforcement and government contracting…

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