Aspiring pilots face wait lists as applications soar

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Aspiring pilots face wait lists as applications soar

People planning to enrol in pilot training at the Springbank Airport west of Calgary are facing wait lists for the first time in years, say school officials.

Both the Springbank Air Training College and the Calgary Flying Club cite two main reasons: recent spikes in student applications and a shortage of instructors.

Flying Club CEO Bill Beaton says several instructors have been hired away by airlines scrambling for more pilots as they expand operations just as members of the Baby Boom generation head for retirement.

"For the first time since I've been involved with the Calgary Flying Club, which is about 18 years, we are seeing wait lists for the first time," he said.

"For a private pilot, that's ranging from one month to three months to commence the flying portion of your training. You can get more rapidly involved by entering one of the ground schools."

As he logs another training flight over Springbank, 20-year-old student pilot Kalen Buchan says his goal is to eventually fly for a major airline.

"For me, I've had the passion probably since I was in Grade 3 or so and I know this is what I wanted to do," he said.

Buchan's flight training started last fall with the Springbank Air Training College after three months on a waiting list.

Chief Flight instructor Ryan Spence says that wait was due, in part, to a spike in student applications.

"We started more private pilot students than we've ever had before in any given year, last year," he said.

Beaton says it is a good time to get a pilot's licence — but students just have to be prepared to wait a few months longer before getting into the air.

Both Schools say they're working to hire more instructors.

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