US senator’s bill would help train veterans to fill vacant regional pilot jobs

WASHINGTON (WISH) – Short flights on smaller planes are on the endangered list, especially in the Midwest.

Regional airlines are in desperate need of qualified pilots. 

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin has introduced a bill she believes will help solve the problem while also helping veterans find work after their service. 

Airlines are struggling to find enough pilots keep up with record travel demand across the United States.

Sharon Pinkerton is with Airlines for America, a trade association and lobbying group based in Washington, D.C., that represents the largest airlines. She said, “It’s particularly important in the Midwest that we get the needed pilots trained.” 

Pinkerton said regional airlines are suffering a serious shortage and flights connecting small towns throughout the heartland are at risk. 

“The smaller airlines have actually said they’re not providing service because of a lack of pilots,” Pinkerton said. 

The senator, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said her bill to help veterans become commercial pilots is “to make sure as our veterans return after serving our country, they have ample opportunities.”

The American Aviator Act would create a grant program to help pay for flight school and training for veterans who were not pilots in the military. It would also give relief to airlines in need of pilots. 

“This is a real win-win,” Baldwin said.

Pinkerton says people are not becoming pilots in part because the training is expensive and time-consuming. She said making it more affordable for veterans will help. She said she believes the bill is “going to give us access to a new group of people that we think are already upstanding citizens.”

Baldwin said she hopes to attach the bill to the Federal Aviation Authority reauthorization bill, which the Senate could take up as soon as this month.