While the commercial aviation industry faces a huge shortage of qualified pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers, the Parkland Institute of Aviation, at Willard Airport, is working on a solution. Parkland reports enrollment for aviation programs for fall of 2023 is up 25% from last year, to more than 100 full-time students – the highest number of students since Parkland established the program.
Parkland began training students for aviation careers in 2014, with fewer than two dozen students in the first class. The program has continually grown, as more high schoolers recognize the opportunity with aviation careers. Parkland has a fleet of 20 aircraft for pilot training. All aircraft came from the previous University of Illinois Institute of Aviation.
The median annual wage for a commercial airline pilot jumped to more than $180,000 in 2021, according to data from the Regional Airline Association (RAA). Parkland has openings for fall of 2023 for students interested in a pilot career. US airlines currently have more than 5,000 open pilot positions.