A recent article in The New York Times (see below) discusses the thousands of pilots who are nearing retirement and the desperate need of major airline carriers to replace them. “I’ve never seen the industry be at this level of pilot demand,” said Kenneth P. Byrnes, the chairman of the flight training department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s campus in Daytona Beach, Fla. About two in five pilots at the five largest domestic carriers will reach mandatory retirement age (65) by 2026. This kind of demand is unprecedented and is making airlines desperate for qualified pilots.
Many of these major airline carriers, including JetBlue and American Airlines have programs that provide training to those interested in a career in aviation. “The program creates a career opportunity for people who might not have thought the industry was an option for them,” said Warren Christie, JetBlue’s Senior Vice President of Safety, Security and Air Operations. At Above the Clouds we have a program that provides training to those interested in aviation. The Cadet Flyers Program is a direct response to the growing number of young people who are either falling through the cracks at school or are involved with social service agencies due to poverty issues or difficult home situations. The drop-out rate in the Boston Public schools is unacceptably high, and almost one-third of the students do not graduate with their class. Schools and social service agencies have been searching, often without success, for that elusive motivational tool that will serve as the conduit to encourage these teens to apply themselves, stay in school, achieve and follow a path toward a better future. Above the Clouds steps in to provide that missing motivational tool — the “coolness” of flight and the allure of learning to fly an airplane. Above the Clouds uniquely provides this programing on a cost-free basis for teens in need.
One of our Cadet Flyers, Kate, told us that “Above the Clouds has changed my life because they have shown me that there are always new opportunities in every direction. I never thought that I could learn to fly a plane but I took a chance and learned to believe in myself as much as they believed in me.” This program not only provides a path towards a career in aviation, but also provides the opportunity to learn about an industry they otherwise wouldn’t have known they were interested in.
Last month, Cadet Flyers took part in Jet Blue’s “ACE Academy Camp.” On Day One, student’s toured Logan Airport’s control tower, the tower simulator where the controllers train, and the JetBlue maintenance hangar where the teens saw an Airbus A320 up close while maintenance was being performed. On Day Two, they received a tour of Pease Air National Guard base in New Hampshire, hosted by a JetBlue pilot who also flies KC-135 tankers. The teens learned about many different professional aviation jobs including pilots and boom operators (the airmen who operate the equipment for aerial refueling.) Finally, on Day Three, the teens went to New Bedford to see the flight training department of Bridgewater State University and received ground school and simulator instruction. Each student even flew in a C-172 with one of the school’s flight instructors!
Our mission at Above the Clouds is to bring joy and hope through the wonder of small aircraft flight to children and teens who are seriously ill, disabled, underserved, or facing other serious adversity. The Cadet Flyers Program is one of the ways we aim to accomplish this goal. It is our hope that the Cadet Flyers Program will inspire some of these teens to pursue a career in aviation and help fill the need for pilots in the years to come.
 Boston Public Schools, Focus on Children, January 21, 2016
To learn more about the Cadet Flyers Program click here: www.abovethecloudskids.org/about-cadet-flyers/