It’s no secret that there’s the concern of a pilot shortage due to many of them who will retire in the next fifteen years. That’s why airlines like American are focusing on finding the next generation of pilots.
Tuesday morning, 24 pilots from different programs celebrated their new employment with Envoy, one of American Airlines' largest wholly-owned carriers.
“It’s indescribable, there are no words that can describe the feeling that I have right now to even be here at Envoy,” said Keith Taylor, a pilot recently hired by Envoy Air. “I think every pilot who initially starts training or who wants to be a pilot thinks about this day and that it’s finally here.”
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Taylor, 26, received special mention because he is the first graduate of American Airlines Cadet Academy.
The program, which takes 36 months to complete started in 2018. According to their website, ”The American Airlines Cadet Academy is an integrated flight training program that provides a clearly defined path to becoming a professional pilot. The goal of the program is to make flight training cost-effective, efficient, and more accessible.”
They’re looking for passionate and qualified candidates like Taylor.
“He’s critical to our program of finding qualified pilots, and not only qualified but someone that just goes above and beyond and represents the type of diversity and inclusion that we want at American Airlines and he just stands out,” said Capt. Ric Wilson, Vice President of Flight Operations for Envoy about Taylor.
Taylor, who grew up in Washington D.C., studied Aviation and Political Science at Jacksonville University in Florida and later achieved a master's in business administration.
He’s also known for holding food drives, was class president in college and wants to give back to other cadets.
“He’s just such an inspiration to us all, he really empowers me, enriches me and makes everything better,” said First Officer Nicolas Brice, one of Taylor’s mentors. “I hope I’m going to be his subordinate and that he’s going to be my boss one day, that’s what I hope for, truly, I actually think he’s destined for great and good things.”
When it comes to flying, Taylor has had a passion for it since he was young.
“I think I was born with it because I feel like it was one of those things where I talked to God before I was born and was like, ‘Hey make me a pilot, that’s what I want to be!’ said Taylor when asked about when he wanted to become a pilot.
Taylor said he learned how to fly at 14, before he even learned how to drive.
His dreams of becoming a commercial pilot are now true since he’s been hired by Envoy.
“It’s almost like going to the minor leagues for major baseball and now I’m in Triple-A and then next when I get to American that’s when I finally make it into the major leagues, so it’s definitely a good feeling,” said Taylor about his employment.
Roughly 75 percent of all pilots will retire over the next 15 years according to Capt. Wilson.
“That’s 15,000 pilots and we’re replacing a lot of those, so it’s important that we start the supply chain and make sure we have a good supply chain coming out of the universities or professional flight programs to fill those vacancies,” said Wilson.
The American Airlines Cadet Academy has more than 15,000 applications on file and more than 300 in the program. American says more than 30% of the cadets are women.