FORT MYERS, Fla. — As many airlines this week have had to cancel flights due to a shortage in staff, flight schools are looking to fill the void.
Flight schools like Paragon in Fort Myers. They’re helping train tomorrow’s aviators and in their tiny, yet life-like simulation cockpit the destinations are limitless.
“We do flight training for anyone from hobby pilots all the way through career up to the airlines,” said Jeffrey Wolf, Chief Flight Instructor with Paragon Flight School.
Those preparations are coming at a good time. Just this week, a number of airlines have had to cancel flights due to a shortage in staff, more notably, pilots.
“This was something that was forecasted and projected five years ago, if not longer, well before the Covid era," says Wolf. "Really the Covid and delay in hiring that happened that year, year and a half where the airlines weren’t hiring, just kind of delayed the inevitable of what was going to happen based on mandatory retirements. Now it’s just gotten that much worse.”
There is some good news. Flight schools are seeing plenty of students sign up for class, helping fill that void.
“Paragon has somewhere around 150 currently active students and that is pretty much spread out between whether they’re full time or part time," Wolf said. "We meet their individual needs. A lot of them are getting close to that eligibility and then hopefully we will bring them on as instructors for Paragon, work for us for about a year and a half, and then move on to the airlines to follow.”
“When you step in the plane, and you take off for that first time, the feeling- it’s just freedom.”
Students like Nicholas Guernsey, who is finishing up his commercial multi-engine license. The simulator and experience with Paragon, he says, is second to none.
“It’s so good that it accounts for our hours, even, so those hours that we need for training we can build them up in the simulator without having to pay the extra money for the plane so it’s a lot cheaper for the simulator," said Guernsey. "That’s how real it gets in there that it accounts for real hours.”
Depending on the program, flight training can take anywhere from 8 months to two years. But all it takes to get started is a spark of interest.
“Aviation was always an interest of mine but actually a path to take it there is something that, like Jeff said, there’s not a lot of ways that it’s presented to you for you to make it possible," said Kameron Kolberg, a student with Paragon. "Doing that was definitely a huge part of it.”
“I had a neighbor of mine, he helped me out," says Guernsey. "He said ‘Why don’t you come fly?’ because he’s a pilot for American Airlines. He paid for my discovery flight here at Paragon and I’ve loved it ever since. They call it the flying bug because once you catch it, it just spreads everywhere.”
A bug those at Paragon hope catches on. Paragon even has a high school program with Evangelical Christian School. Through the partnership, they’re able to introduce the idea of becoming a pilot and having a career in aviation.
You can find more information about their flying programs at Paragon by visiting their website right here.