(KAIT/NBC) - A looming shortage of people qualified to sit in the cockpit is creating a huge opportunity for those looking to fly for an airline.
Experts said new pilots are in demand because of a looming pilot shortage. Part of the reason behind the shortage is that so many will soon hit the mandatory retirement age of 65. However, airlines continue adding flights. Airlines around the world will need an estimated 637,000 new pilots over the next 20 years.
"They know it is competitive. They know they have to offer the best to get the pilots, cause we will just go somewhere else with better pay and flying the same thing," said Amanda Larson, airline pilot recruit.
Experts said the demand for airline pilots is not just a problem in the U.S. It is worldwide. The number of people flying commercially soared to more than three billion annually. Universities that train pilots find themselves educating more and more students from overseas, most notably China.
"The major airlines will contract with companies like ourselves, send their cadets to the United States to train from anywhere from 12-18 months," said Rex Ginder, UND Aerospace Foundation.
In recent months, some foreign airlines like Emirates have cut flights due to a shortage of pilots. While that hasn't been a problem for big U.S. carriers, regional operator Great Lakes recently suspended operations. Officials blamed a shortage of pilots.
"What we are going to see air service that might have been viable 10 years ago won't be viable in the future," said Michael Boyd of Boyd Consulting.
U.S. regional airlines are also struggling because of the stiffer regulations introduced by the FAA. Pilots are now required to complete up to 1,500 total flight hours to become a professional pilot.