OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — Time spent at EAA AirVenture could inspire the next generation of pilots, who, in turn, could help alleviate the current airline pilot shortage, according to the president of a northeast Wisconsin flight school.
"EAA AirVenture, I mean how many other places let kids under the age of 18 come into its show free of charge, to see aviation, explore it," said Charlie Smith, president of Pilotsmith, a flight school with a location at Green Bay's airport.
"We get calls from people saying, 'Hey, I was at EAA'" said Smith.
Then, "...they do a discovery flight with us, introductory flight, second thing they know, they are off on their way starting an airline career," Smith said.
Smith connected NBC 26 with Jacob Pearson, a high schooler who is a flight student.
Pearson, 17, said EAA played a role in him working to become a pilot.
"I've been to EAA a few times, for their air show, and seeing that as a kid, it was like, 'Man, that would be really cool to be up in one of those planes one day,'" Pearson said. "And having it become a reality, there's just nothing like it."
The movie "Top Gun" also played a role in Pearson's motivation to begin flight training.
Pearson continues to decide what his future will hold. If he decides to become an airline pilot, he could help remedy a shortage facing the industry.
"The pilot shortage for the industry is real, and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plans because there simply aren’t enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years," United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said in April.
A reasonable timeline from someone's start in flight school to becoming a regional airline pilot is three years, Smith, of the flight school, said.
Admission to EAA AirVenture is free for attendees 18 years old and younger.