Rancho HS, Allegiant Airlines Tackle Pilot Shortage


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An American Airlines Airbus A319 airplane takes off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va.

In the next 20 years, the world will be facing a pilot shortage.

In North America alone, we’ll need more than 200,000 pilots in the skies. Internationally, that number is about 800,000.

“Airlines always have an issue of pilots that retire but they’ve always had enough from various sources of pilots coming in to overcome that issue,” said Gary Archambeault, an aviation teacher at Rancho High School. 

Now, there are fewer military pilots and fewer people going to flight school. One of the reasons could be the cost, Archambeault said.

“It’s not easy to learn out to fly," he said. "It’s very costly.”

To get a private pilot certificate can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000. To become a pilot for a commercial airline, you have complete 1,500 flying hours and each of those hours can cost $150 to $200.

Rancho High School, with help from Allegiant Airlines, is working to close that gap. It’s the only aviation high school in Nevada, and one of only a handful in the nation.

Jennifer Haas is the magnet coordinator for Rancho High School. She said there are about four student applications for everyone one spot available. The district uses a lottery system to select students for the aviation program.

Once they're in the program, from freshman to senior year, students are immersed in the aviation program and those on a pilot track are flying by their senior year.

Support comes from

Hilarie Grey is the director of communications for Allegiant Airlines. She said they haven't had a problem with a pilot shortage so far, but it is a concern.

“We’re definitely taking precautions on our side to make sure that we’re ready, but as part of the industry we want to make sure that that next generation of kids are inspired to go into aviation sciences," she said.

Recently, the airline brought some of their top pilots, maintenance people and others involved in the airline industry to the school to meet with students and answer questions about their careers.

“Our relationship with Rancho that is developing is fantastic,” she said. “And it really makes sense that here in Las Vegas that the hometown airline would partner with this premier aviation magnet program that we’re fortunate to have here in Southern Nevada.”

The airline has established two $5,000 scholarships for seniors moving onto their next step. 

The high school as also partnered with flight schools so that students can get college credit for courses taken at Rancho.

“It depends what courses they go to but it does save them a lot of money,” Haas said.

Grey said the partnership with Rancho is part of an overall effort to get young people interested in science, engineering, technology, and math.

“And part of our goal in looking at STEM education is making sure that there are kids that are excited about aviation that will get to those next stages,” she said.




Gary Archambeault, teacher, Rancho High School; Jennifer Haas, magnet coordinator, Rancho High School; Hilarie Grey, director of corporate communications, Allegiant Airlines


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