From the Director’s Desk: Flight Academy QC
July 22, 2021
There is a serious pilot shortage and its impact on the aviation industry is looming. I want the Quad Cities to be part of the solution and, in turn, I think there are some surprising benefits to supporting a growing aviation workforce for our whole region.
Let me start by summarizing why this is an issue that will impact more than just your family vacation. Pilots are needed for commercial flights or to get your family to that much needed beach vacay, but also for cargo movements. While not highly visible to consumers, pilots are a huge factor in keeping our economy moving. We’ve become accustomed to one and two-day shipping options, and businesses rely on the shipment of materials for their products. In short, the supply chain will be disrupted. People who rely on planes to transport their latest purchase, and businesses who rely on planes to transport the materials needed to build their product, should all be invested in creating a strong pipeline of pilots.
How could our region support a growing pilot workforce? By creating a flight school right here in the QC. Here’s why I think it would be the perfect location and opportunity:
1) Location: Our region has two community colleges and three 4-year schools who bring in students from all over the world. Within a short driving distance, there are literally thousands of students who might not even be aware that becoming a pilot is within their grasp – and that it’s a career in high demand. Additionally, there are tons of rewarding jobs within aviation outside of being a pilot, from mechanics and air traffic controllers to the business side of the airport and more.
2) Open air: The closer you get to major cities with big airports, the more congested the air space will be. For a student pilot, it can be intimidating. We have just enough traffic to give pilots practice and to see some of the aircraft they’ll start their careers in without it being completely overwhelming.
3) Affordable living: Students from outside our area will need places to stay, eat and work while getting their training. The Quad Cities was recently named the third cheapest location to live out of 150 metro areas in the U.S., which makes it an ideal place for pilots in training. Beyond the cost of living, the recreation and urban/rural mix is attractive to students of all backgrounds and interests.
4) The General Aviation Community: One of the best things about having a hobby is the community it creates – meeting people who share your interest and are willing to talk about it all day, every day. The Quad Cities is full of great pilots who share a love of flying. I’ll admit I’ve been known to come to “work” on the weekend to see who is flying and talk all things aviation. I’m working to strengthen this community even more and establish a committee of general aviation pilots who, like myself, are invested in passing our passion on to future generations.
I don’t yet know what the timeline is to make it happen, but we have begun a lot of the foundational work. We’ve invested in reclaiming a hangar on airport property that has been largely unused and has great public access to instructors and students. We’ve been meeting with flight schools to understand their models for success and how we can apply that here. Aviation presents a big opportunity for our region and my many years of experience as a pilot tell me the QC is ready for this.
As we continue down this path, we will be sure to share any updates in future e-newsletters and on our social media channels.