West Michigan school contributes to airline shortage

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CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — As a nationwide pilot shortage continues to affect schedules, West Michigan Aviation Academy graduates prepare to join a demanding workforce.

Students who have chosen the school’s pilot program can graduate from high school with their private pilot license. In addition to their electives, students must log at least four hours of flight training and be at least 17 years old to test their license.

“This (Federal Aviation Administration) certification follows them,” said George Pavey, dean of aviation and engineering. “Although a private pilot is not someone who can go out and make money, a private pilot license is required as a first step for any professional pilot.”

Several major carriers have reduced service to smaller cities over the past year to accommodate staff shortages. Additionally, airlines have added pay raises and signing bonuses in recent months to recruit future employees.

Students like Aubrey Bogardus would never have been exposed to a world of flight without the academy.

“The first flight I took, I said to myself: “Yes; that’s what I want to do,” she said.

Pavey says flying is a passion-driven industry. He says he can tell when a student connects with the flight.

“What it does is it opens the door of opportunity for students,” he said. “Quite frankly, in most schools, children don’t even know that such opportunities exist.

West Michigan Aviation Academy is a tuition-free public charter high school for students in grades 9-12. It opened in 2010. Some of its first graduates now fly for commercial airlines from Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

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