For several years, US Aviation Academy has made North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field a destination for trainee commercial pilots from across the globe. While it has historically focused on international pilots, it is turning its attention inward as it looks to increase training for domestic pilots.
Representatives with US Aviation, which maintains four flight academies, said this week that the company is looking to double the number of domestic pilots that go through its training program. The initiative comes amid an expected increase in demand for pilots worldwide over the next 20 years.
“We have done a little — very little — (domestic training) but didn’t market it very well,” US Aviation Executive Vice President Mark Taylor said.
Currently, Domestic flight training makes up about 20 percent of the business for US Aviation across its four flight schools. However, Taylor said he hopes to increase this significantly over the next year. Among the initiatives and marketing aimed at increasing domestic interest, Taylor said US Aviation has recently approved agreements with Wells Fargo to start offering tuition financing.
With these courses, Taylor said he intends not to target the hobbyist market, but those who want to fly professionally as commercial pilots.
“Our experience is that the vast majority of domestic pilots want to pursue it as a field rather than just being a hobby,” he said.
Despite domestic training making up nearly a fifth of the company’s training, NTRA has historically been almost exclusively used as a training field for foreign pilots. Of the 139 pilots training at NTRA, only one is a domestic trainee, with pilots from Asian countries making up the majority of the current class.
Taylor said he would like to see NTRA’s classes become a balance of both foreign pilots and domestic trainees with momentum starting within the next year. Optimally, he would like to see about 100 domestic students attend the nine-month course with each cycle.
“It is an opportunity that we are not taking advantage of,” Taylor said. “By this time next year, I would like to see a healthy balance between domestic and international students.”
Taylor said the increased push for training comes amid an expected increase in demand for pilots worldwide over the next 20 years. Boeing recently published a study that predicted that the global market will see a demand for more than 804,000 pilots between 2019 and 2038.
Of those pilots, about 266,000 will be needed in Asia and the Pacific regions, with the North America seeing the second highest demand with 212,000. Alongside a need for pilots, the study found that there will be an increased demand for technical services, with the North American Market expected to see need for an additional 193,000 technicians.
“As pilot labor supply remains constrained, airlines are increasingly seeking to recruit, develop, and train locally sourced pilots,” Boeing said in the study. “Cadet programs that train aspiring pilots to be a qualified, competent, and operationally-ready first officer have increased in popularity as airlines look to fill future pilot pipelines. Airlines are also recognizing the significant cost burden for students, and bond programs have gained traction as another avenue for interested candidates.”
With the push to train more American pilots, Taylor said he expects the new recruits to be on top of its existing clients, and would not detract from its market in training foreign pilots. With that, Taylor said staff at US Aviation have considered expansions of its academy at NTRA. With this will come likely investment in new equipment and the hiring of new personnel.
“As we grow our capacity here at NTRA, we will have to hire new staff, new techs, new pilots, buy new aircraft, everything,” Taylor said.