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Indiana Air National Guard working to solve national pilot shortage

Commercial pilot shortages are being felt and solved by the National Guard
Army National Guard
Posted at 6:30 PM, Sep 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-06 15:54:39-04

SHELBYVILLE — Pilot shortages like we’ve never seen before are causing delays and cancellations across the country.

It happens with everyday commercial travel, but how is it affecting the military world?

WRTV is taking a deeper dive to find out and see how the military is even helping solve this nationwide issue.

They earn their wings through years of training.

Now these National Guard men and women are suiting up to take flight in this Blackhawk helicopter.

Flying called Chief Warrant Officer Mandi McClure to the skies for the Indiana Army National Guard seven years ago.

“I absolutely love it. It’s that like giddy feeling,” McClure said.

It’s a feeling she wants to share with others, but McClure said she sees a concerning and growing gap, in the next generation of military pilots.

McClure said, “but we’re not getting that influx of younger pilots that want to stay in.”

Staying in and serving allows this team to go overseas and rescue soldiers, from combat zones.

“If you don’t have enough pilots, you’re not able to fulfill the mission and when you start dropping missions, then you start losing the overall effect that the Army’s trying to have,” she said.

Right now, missions are completed, but WRTV’s wondering what’s holding back the next generation of pilots back?

“I think it’s the commitment level and then the lack of not understanding that this is a path you can take,” McClure said.

It’s a path First Lieutenant Kenneth Win took.

“There’s never a dull moment. You know you’re always progressing in your career; you’re never done,” Win said.

Also, it’s a path pilots use to learn to fly, while getting paid at no cost to them. Now Win expanded upon his skills, by working as a military pilot and a commercial pilot.

Yes – National Guard allows pilots to do that.

“It’s an incredible juggle. I will admit that. However, in the aviation sector, a lot of civilian employers, they either have been in the military as aviators, or they hire a ton of them,” Win said.

He’s not alone in juggling those two schedules. So, WRTV flew from Shelbyville to see the Air National Guard in Fort Wayne and WRTV found out two-thirds of their pilots work in both the civilian and military pilot roles as well.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts about 14,500 pilot openings, each year, for the next decade. However, the national guard men and women can serve in those pilot roles, both in the military and the civilian sector.”

“We can fill both needs,” Col. Joshua Waggoner said.

Waggoner is with the 122nd Fighter Wing and he said the more pilots they put into military training and planes, the more the commercial airline industry benefits too.

Waggoner said he knows it takes at least four years to train a military pilot.

“You don’t want to make a pilot fast,” Waggoner said.

However, once they are trained, pilots are certified to fly for most commercial airlines. Waggoner also said he saw problems from the pandemic stopping all commercial travel, working as a commercial pilot too.

“Actually, airlines encourage a lot of people to retire, so I think that created a bathtub,” Waggoner said.

It’s a bathtub, seen on a smaller scale at the military level. At the 122nd Fighter Wing they have 35 pilot slots. Five of which are open.

“We can always use more,” Waggoner said.

But those positions are being filled continuously, by new pilots like Capt. Colby Scott.

“It’s world-class training,” Scott said.

Scott said it’s a call to service that saves future Hoosier pilots money.

“I see it all of the time. I talk to young people and I’m like, man, you guys should really consider the Air National Guard,” Scott said.

Now across Indiana, it’s a call to be ‘always ready, always there’. It’s National Guard pilot service that’s helping fill a pilot shortage in more than one way.

Civilian pilot training can cost an average of $63,000, according to flight schools. Once again, through the National Guard you can live in your home state and get paid to learn how to fly.

The Army National Guard has a “street to seat” program for pilots and it’s something the Indiana branch pursues when they can.

However, it’s been three years since they’ve done it. The program depends on factors like the number of recruits the U.S Army selects.

When it’s used though, it generates two to three candidates, per rotation.

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