In new aviation program, sky's the limit for next generations of pilots

Demand for pilots now a global phenomenon

Paul Kurtz
June 06, 2018 - 5:39 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A handful of kids and their relatives showed up at Northeast Philadelphia Airport to take advantage of what Jeff Templeton, executive director of Staying Positive Equals Amazing Kids (SPEAK), calls the opportunity of a lifetime.

"This young pilot program is both captivating and immersive and may even inspire students to discover a career in aviation," he said.

SPEAK, a Germantown-based youth advocacy group, launched a program that gives kids a chance to learn all about careers in aviation. 

Parents, members of SPEAK and partner agency Legacy Aviation watched from the tarmac as 13-year-old Christopher Lopez and 11-year-old Lajae Sharper climbed into a single-engine, four-seat plane with their flight instructor.  

They went for a thrilling 15-minute fly-over that included some hands-on training.

"It was fun. I flew the plane. I just thought it was just going to be me sitting down, but I flew it," laughed Lajae.

Legacy Aviation CEO Alexander Souponetsky hopes this and other young pilot programs will help spawn the next generation. 

"We have a baby boomer population of pilots that have to retire at 65," he said. "In the U.S. in the next two years, 18,000 pilots have to retire by law. So that creates an amazing opportunity for new pilots."

An opportunity that features much better pay. He said the average starting salary for new pilots has gone from $30,000 to $70,000. 
"Over the next two decades, commercial airlines in the U.S. will need to hire 5,000 pilots a year," Souponetsky continued. He calls the demand for pilots a global phenomenon. 

Pilot training takes two years, costs half as much as college and students are guaranteed to find work as instructors.