SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- As demand for air travel in the grows, so does the need for pilots, but industry experts say the U.S. will face a shortage of pilots in the coming years.
Boeing estimates more than 600,000 pilots will need to be recruited in the next 20 years to meet airline industry demand. The Air Force is facing a serious shortage of fighter pilots as well.
Teens like Darren Heigel may be part of the solution.
“The best feeling is when you take off. That is a great feeling, and then also, you can kind of just see everything. It might be kind of cliché to say you’re on top of the world but you really are,” said Heigel.
Heigel is one of 50 cadets in the cadet program at Stratton Air National Guard Base. He's among 25,000 prospective pilots across the nation in the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. Major Joe Marra says instructors hope to not only instill a passion for aviation and inspire careers, but train future leaders.
The Civil Air Patrol was formed during World War II to mobilize civilian aviation resources for national defense. Members now support communities in ways such as emergency response and disaster prevention.
A pilot took Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a new member of the Civil Air Patrol, over Amsterdam to see a possible slope failure.
“With the extreme weather, the natural disasters that we’ve seen, the flooding, they serve a mission now that is more important than ever,” said Santabarbara.
The nonprofit is working with today’s leaders while preparing tomorrow’s.
“Whether that be military, government, or just civilian leaders, it is very important program for forging the next generation that is going to run this country,” said Heigel.