The travel industry is slowly bouncing back after 18 months in a worldwide pandemic. But, with plane and pilot shortages, the future of travel is well – up in the air.
Five thousand pilots accepted early retirement offers from mainline U.S. carriers aviation consultant Kit Darby told industry publication Travel Weekly. Airlines are anticipating reaching the 2019 travel level by next year or in 2023, but in order to grow, pilots need to be replaced fast and at a higher capacity.
Airports are catching on and are becoming creative on how to combat this shortage. Over the next two decades, it’s projected that 87 new pilots will need to be trained and ready to fly a commercial airliner every day to meet the demand for air travel. Overall employment of airline and commercial pilots is estimated to grow 6% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Flight training schools have popped up across the country and at CRW in response to the pilot shortage. Kristen Sayre is one of three women in CRW’s Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School’s inaugural class.
“This was a great time to start school because the demand for pilots is only going to increase, especially for women pilots opportunity an even greater opportunity for women in aviation. I think the national statistic for women pilots is 8%, and it’s even longer for career pilots. So right now, there are three of us out of 18 students; we are defying the statistic right now, which is awesome,” Sayre said.
It only took 363 days of construction on CRW’s Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School, where future pilots have a state-of-the-art building and hangar for their education and training.
“It’s a four-year program. The school just got started up a few months ago. It all came together so quickly, as everyone knows. It b took a year for them to set it all up, which is awesome considering all that,” Sayre said.
Ben Epperly is in Sayre’s class. For him, his flight path was always clear.
“Since I was a kid, I have always liked aviation: the sights, the sounds. Always being at the airport. Its excitement in the air” said Epperly.
Marshall University’s planned Commercial Pilot: Fixed Wing, B.S. degree program will help meet the nation’s projected significant need for commercial pilots over the next 20 years. In addition, its ground and flight courses will lead to many FAA certifications and prepare graduates to become commercial pilots of single and multi-engine aircraft.
“I will definitely fly commercial but with an airline, but ii may start corporate first,” Sayre said.
“To be a commercial pilot and fly any airline I can get a hold of. Delta, American all that to fly internationally is what I want to do,” Epperly said.
The new bachelor’s degree program just began in the fall 2021 semester.
Yeager Airport Director and CEO Nick Keller plans to grow the program and bring West Virginia an extra economic boost.
QUESTION: ONE OF THE GOALS OF THE PROGRAM IS TO INVEST IN AVIATION EDUCATION AND CREATE QUALITY JOBS. WHERE DO YOU WANT TO SEE THE BILL NOE FLIGHT SCHOOL IN THE NEXT YEAR? HOW CAN WE HELP THE PILOT SHORTAGE?
“West Virginia and Marshall Bill Noe Flight School and Yeager Airport play a key role in reversing the pilot shortage and help add new pilots. Where I want to see the flight school now is to continue adding new students every semester. In addition, Marshall has new aircraft on order. So imagine in 5 years, over 200 full-time college students going to school at Yeager Airport through Marshall University, graduating up to 50 pilots a year. There is also the opportunity for Marshall to add in different degree programs in aviation management or aerospace engineering.”
QUESTION: WHAT IS THE AIRLINE PILOT CADET PROGRAM?
“One of the things the airport is doing is we are talking to airlines partnering with Marshall University for cadet programs. The program is a pathway for someone who is in pilot training to get a guaranteed job at an airline once they graduate. So they can start with an airline and get into the program; this would help students compete in the economy.”
The Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School will enroll more than 200 students and produce some 50 commercial pilots annually when in full operation.
The curriculum will teach students aeronautics, navigation, flight control, and communication systems.
The incentive to get more pilots is enticing. Based on national data, professional pilots enjoy a great ROI, estimated at 55x, compared to other popular professions like engineers, attorneys, and physicians, estimated at 30-40x.
“It’s the perfect time for us, I mean, especially w this location here and all the job opportunities we will be able to get, and it won’t take very long,” said Epperly.
The median annual wage for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers was $147,220 in 2019, while the median yearly salary for commercial pilots was $86,080.
In just a matter of weeks, there will be a chill in the air while you are drinking your morning coffee, the leaves will be starting to show some color, and the waters of the Atlantic Ocean will be a little colder. So, while your favorite summer vacation spots are winding down for the year, the best fall locations are just starting to heat up.
Charlotte is just one of the major cities you can fly to from Yeager Airport in under an hour. You might be thinking to yourself, “Charlotte, for a fall trip?” The Queen City might not be the first spot on your list for best fall locations, but we are here to convince you to make the short flight down to the southern part of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
American Airlines boarding a plane at Yeager Airport to Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
A Fall Oasis of Fun
First up on the list of things we would suggest is the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Wait, what? West Virginia already has world-class whitewater rafting. Why go to North Carolina for this? Let’s look at everything you can do at the whitewater center.
- Whitewater Rafting/Kayaking on the world’s largest manmade river.
- Navigate a rope course over the river.
- Jump from a 100 ft. platform.
- Ice skating
- Climb the world’s first deepwater solo climbing complex.
- Bouldering, top-rope, and sport climbing on one of the largest outdoor climbing complexes on the East Coast.
- Flatwater Kayaking
- Mountain Biking
Just looking at the Whitewater Center’s pictures has us ready to hop on the next flight to CLT. You can buy one or two day passes to this oasis of fun, or you can purchase single activity passes. Still not convinced, let’s look at some more things to do in the Queen City.
Overlooking the Charolette Skyline, one of the best fall destinations.
A Climbing Destination
Want to bring the outdoors inside? Inner peaks climbing is a massive indoor rock-climbing park for first-time climbers and the most advanced climbers. Inner Peaks has a great video on their website that shows everything you can do and then some. We will let the video speak for itself.
Charlotte is jam-packed full of things to do; we could never list them in all in just one article. Here is a list of items in Charlotte that are fun but you may have forgotten about:
The list could go on with all the fantastic restaurants and nightlife in Uptown. That could be a trip all on its own. The Discovery Place is a great place to take the entire family. The little ones will be busy all day there, exploring everything from wildlife to designing forts.
So, if the Queen City has never been on your radar for one of the best fall locations, we hope this article at least piques your interest. If you want to check out more of the exciting things to do in the Charlotte area, their visitor website is easy to navigate and provides links to all the attractions, restaurants, breweries, nightlife, and more.
We hope to see you hopping on a flight to CLT soon!
What a difference one year makes. This time last year, most of us were still working from home, figuring out how to work TikTok, and canceling all of our vacation plans. Travel numbers at Yeager Airport were close to single digits, and no one was sure when or if this pandemic would come to an end.
How empty was CRW on Memorial Day Weekend 2020? Let’s look at the passenger numbers from 5-27 through 5-31 of last year.
- 5/27 – 80 passengers
- 5/28 – 90 passengers
- 5/29 – 96 passengers
- 5/30 – 95 passengers
- 5/31 – 83 passengers
CRW’s 20 minute parking lot sits mostly empty in March of 2020. Only ticketed passengers were allowed in the terminal during the lockdown.
To give you a reference point, CRW averaged between 700 and 800 daily passenger’s pre-pandemic. One (long) year and a whole lot of vaccinations later, and the numbers for MDW 2021 were a sight for sore eyes.
- 5/27 – 741 passengers
- 5/28 – 824 passengers
- 5/29 – 812 passengers
- 5/30 – 851 passengers
- 5/31 – 801 passengers
Travel Numbers are Coming Back
The passenger numbers from the holiday weekend align with what we have been seeing at CRW over the last few months. And we are expecting our passenger numbers to keep rising. Starting June 6th, American Airlines’ route from Charleston, WV to Philadelphia, PA, is returning. With that flight back in operation, all of the routes that were temporarily paused at CRW because of COVID-19 are back in operation.
Low cost air carrier Spirit Airlines is helping travel numbers bounce back at Yeager Airport
Travel Numbers Bouncing Back Quicker Than Expected
There are many different answers to that question. At the beginning of the pandemic, experts predicted countries with large domestic markets would bounce back first, and the United States has one of the biggest domestic markets in the world.
Airports across the country, including CRW, have also spent tons of time and money ensuring passengers can travel safely. CRW installed UV-C filters, cleaned out every HVAC duct, had round-the-clock cleaning of high touch surfaces, just to name a few.
The heightened cleaning, along with masks and a quick vaccine rollout, has lead people back to the skies. And CRW is here for it!
Are COVID Measures Still in Place at CRW?
Although the federal mask mandate was eased, the mandate still states that face coverings must be worn in airports and airplanes. Our passengers at CRW have done an incredible job wearing masks throughout the pandemic, and for that, we thank you.
Spirit Gate Agent wearing her mask while checking travelers in.
It has been a long road to get back to some normalcy. We are happy to see you and your families again at CRW. And if you are waiting for your flight and want to show us some of the TikTok dances you learned last year, we would love to see those too!
We often tell kids to dream big, they can do anything they set their mind to. The truth is, no matter how old we are, we should always dream big. And that is what we do at Yeager Airport.
Having the military use CRW as a hub, while they train at old coal mine sites in West Virginia, was once a pipe dream. The same for the Marshall University Flight School and the United States Customs Building. At one point, all of these things were just an idea, a dream, but are a reality now at Yeager Airport.
All of these projects at CRW are being done with one goal in mind, make Yeager Airport the most important economic engine for West Virginia. With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the construction projects going on around CRW.
Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School Construction at Yeager Airport
Construction of the Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School Classroom Building. Classes are scheduled to start in August 2021.
The groundbreaking for the Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School was on August 13th, 2020. Since then, construction has been fast and furious. Work on the classroom building and hangar have stayed ahead of schedule for most of the project.
Classroom Building- The entire frame of the school is up, the roof is on, and the siding for the building is starting to go on. Work on the inside of the building is making great progress too. Framing is done, and sheetrock is going up.
The Hangar- The hangar is also up, and siding is up, and the roof is on. Work is being done on the inside of the building now. The hangar is just to the left of the classroom building.
The first group of students is set to start in August this year. Both the classroom and hangar will be ready to go by then. These future pilots are going to have a state-of-the-art building for their education and training.
United States Customs and Border Patrol Building Project
Yeager Airport is home to the only Unite States Port of Entry in West Virginia. We have had a CBP agent for several years but never a dedicated building for him. He did his work either on the plane or at Capital Jet Center.
The United States Customs Building is being built beside Yeager Airport’s FBO Capital Jet Center. Construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.
Getting a designated space for CBP has been on the radar at CRW for a few years. Construction started earlier this year and should be finished by the end of 2021. Footers have already been poured, and walls are already starting to go up. The building has to be built United States CBP specifications. When the building is finished, CRW will be on the map for international travelers looking to clear customs before heading to their final destination.
Yeager Airport Taxiway B Project
Two different projects happening on taxiway B. The first is a drainage project. This project is going to divert water away from taxiway B. This is a smaller but important project. Keeping the taxiways and runway as clear and dry as possible is important.
The next project on taxiway B is to give airplanes easier access to Capital Jet Center. As our general aviation customer base continues to grow and will get even bigger when the customs building opens, we thought this project necessary.
Before this project, general aviation aircraft did not have direct access to taxiway Charlie. Once finished, this project will make it easier for pilots to taxi to Runway 23.
Planes leaving Capital Jet Center now taxi on Bravo before jumping over to Charlie. After this construction is finished, planes will be able to have access to taxiway C, which is the old Runway 15/33, directly from Capital Jet Center. This will make for an easier route to and from Runway 5/23.
Exciting Projects at Yeager Airport
More construction is coming. Some plans were paused because of COVID-19, but the projects have not gone away. As passenger numbers start to return to normal, more projects are going to be placed back online. This new construction is going to give CRW a fresh look and feel. It will give passengers an exciting travel experience. It will make some once far-fetched dreams become reality.
To learn more about Yeager Airport contact us today! With service provided by American, Delta, Spirit, and United Airlines, you are just one stop from thousands of destinations worldwide.