By Audrie Palmer
As the aviation industry faces one of its most serious staffing shortages in 50 years, one local flight school is hoping that a new program will help to get students interested in flying early on.
Flightsource Aviation LLC will launch a 12-month program in January for students in junior high and high school.
Owner Jonathan Shorey began flying when he was 15 years old and knows how important those teenage years are to someone considering becoming a pilot.
“A lot of times in aviation, that’s when they make a decision to follow that kind of career,” he said. “That’s when most commercial pilots I talk to now said they made the decision.”
The program will be a civilian-type course and be split into two grade levels — for those in sixth to eighth grade and for those in the ninth through 12th grades. Each month, the groups will meet for a themed session where the subject matter will focus on different aviation topics such as helicopter flying, air traffic control and airport security.
Those enrolled in the program will also be allowed one hour with an instructor in a simulated airplane at the school to practice flying and one hour of flight time in the air with an instructor also.
While one cannot obtain a pilot’s license until they are 17 years of age, Shorey said that program participants can start building the hours they need for the license or toward a future career as a pilot.
The company is looking at setting up a kiosk at Midland Park Mall after the holidays that will include two smaller simulators that adults and children can play with and build an interest in flying.
A huge shortage in the airline industry is predicted to occur in the coming years. With many pilots being forced to retire at the age of 65, the industry is looking to fill those positions that will be soon vacant.
“I know we won’t make much of a dent in the shortage, but at least we’ll get kids to make the decision,” Shorey said about the new aviation program.
The dream of starting this program has been something Shorey said he’s wanted to do for the last decade. His wife recently finished her degree in education and is looking forward to teaching in the classroom.
Each student in the program will receive an aviator shirt like an airline uniform. The program will be for a rolling 12 months and is looking at a price point of around $349 per student each month.
That amount will cover the group’s class work time plus the two hours of flight instruction with an instructor in the air and on the ground in a simulator. Students won’t be required to stay for the entire 12 months though, Shorey said.
Flightsource acquired the flight simulator in July and it is the only simulator of its kind in the local area.
“It’s very realistic,” Shorey said. “This one represents aircraft so well.”
The two new simulators the company will establish at the kiosk at the mall are from Red Bird Jay and will have a 42-inch flat screen monitor and a computer built into the base and controls. Staff said they are also looking at obtaining four additional simulators to have at the company’s new location at 10716 State Highway 191.
Shorey said they recently moved the business to the new location because it’s in between both Midland and Odessa and it’s something many flight schools around the country are doing. The concept of having a training facility away from an airport and at a neutral location is one that is emerging in the industry, he added.
It’s another way Shorey said they are looking to get students interested at a young age in aviation.
From the runway at Schlemeyer field in Odessa, where students will take off when flying with Flightsource, planes fly overhead near a school.
You can watch and see the kids that stop to look up from the playground, Shorey said. It’s the ones that stop and turn their head that are those that have already thought about aviation.
“Even at that age, they’re already looking at it as cool and something they want to be able to do,” he said.