Vocational credit availability has been a more recent challenge for flight training schools.
SLM Corp., better known as “Sallie Mae,” is a former government-sponsored provider of education loans that became a private company in 2004 and subsequently stopped lending to students of most flight schools. “Almost every flight school in the country lost their relationship with Sallie Mae,” Rockmaker said.
“The big driving force is the cost, and it can be pretty expensive, especially when you’re buying the flight time,” said Tom Jargiello, director of the Eig-Watson School of Aviation at Miami Dade College. “You’re looking at years and thousands of dollars before you can actually sit there and pilot a commercial plane.” MDC students who pursue a two-year associate egree in professional pilot technology can expect to pay more than $30,000 for flying lessons alone plus the cost of tuition, books and other expenses.
Yet despite the high cost of becoming an airline captain or first officer, job opportunities for pilots appear ample, especially abroad.
Boeing last year forecast worldwide demand for 460,000 additional commercial airline pilots by 2032, including 185,600 in China alone. Boeing will release an update of its annual forecast of global demand for pilots and aircraft mechanics during the public event Thursday at its Miami training center.
“There’s a huge pilot shortage right now. There’s an estimated 300,000 pilots that are needed across the world,” said Bellitto, the Boeing executive. “Countries like China and India need more and more pilots as they’re developing their industries,” and in the United States, “the baby boomers are retiring, and Vietnam-era pilots that were trained in the military are retiring.”