OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – Boeing Aircraft is projecting as many as 700,000 pilots will be needed to meet the air travel demands of the next 20-years.
Meantime, many East Oakland students who live near the flight path of Oakland Airport are struggling to find a career.
Seems like a logical question: can these two needs be met at the same time?
Now that air travel is back and booming, the need for workers in the aviation industry is growing and that need exists in one of the Bay Area’s long-suffering neighborhoods.
“Oakland Airport is right there. Very, very, very close to a lot of our kids that live in that neighborhood. Uh, you know, maybe just right across the freeway, but they maybe have never thought, well, I could work there. I could get a job working, you know, for one of the airlines, or I could be a mechanic, or it could be someone in a tower or, or anything else or a pilot,” John Sasaki, Oakland Unified School District spokesman, said.
It’s estimated that 85 percent of commercial airline pilots are white, just two percent Black and only about 9 percent are female.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is trying to change that.
It offers STEM classes to high schools across the country to encourage young people, including females and minorities, to get ready for all kinds of careers in aviation.
“So I could see where, um, perhaps we start off with a pilot program where we can reach out and bring in some students, um, that, that had this interest. And, and again, we could start with a focus and maybe a couple of the careers within, within, um, aviation, whether it’s, um, the FAA or whether it’s aviation maintenance and start working with that group because, um, I agree, we need to expose our students to these opportunities,” Emiliano Sanchez, OUSD director of technical trades and apprenticeships, said.
The AOPA Program is called “You Can Fly” and is now in use at 450 schools across the country, including more than a dozen in California.
But there are no schools in the Bay Area participating, even though it’s served by three major commercial airports and dozens of general aviation fields.
“I always say let’s start small and then we can build something out. And I think what we do is reach out to a couple of the schools, particularly to the ones that are in closer proximity so that we don’t have any geographical barriers,” Sanchez said.
The biggest challenge is letting the students and especially the schools know that these careers exist in their own backyard.
“Our students say I’m going to be a doctor. I’m going to be a lawyer. I’m going to play basketball. You’re going to be this. And very few say I would be air traffic controller. Right. And so just exposing the students to that field and, you know, I don’t know what the security issue is, but, you know, just having them have access to that and see that is just like, wow. I mean, you’re now you’re opening doors to things that they didn’t even know,” Sanchez said.