LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Airbus Captain and flight instructor Jesus Campuzano was inspired to become a pilot when he was 17 years old, which is when his love of aviation took flight. He’s been working for Las Vegas-based airline Allegiant for the last 8 years however, it wasn’t always smooth air and there was some turbulence along the way.
“The views are amazing and the people that I work with are awesome,” he explained about his career choice. “It was rough when I first started. I didn’t know what was going on in aviation, so I had a lot of mentors that guided me. There are not many Hispanics in the industry, and it is just very important that people who have dreams in whatever culture they are in they pursue them. Especially in this era where this is a need for pilots.”
The need for pilots is staggering with North American Airlines facing a shortage of nearly 17,000 pilots this year, and that number could double by 2032, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration and industry experts like consulting firm Oliver Wyman.
Captain Campuzano is just one of the 9% of pilots who are Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With Hispanic Heritage Month starting on Sept. 15, he hopes to be an inspiration to those aspiring to soar above the clouds.
The month recognizes the achievements of Hispanic Americans and is celebrated every year through Oct. 15.
Captain Campuzano’s airline is trying to help by offering to sponsor students in getting an Airline Transport Certification that would come with a conditional offer of employment upon completion. Allegiant has also started a pilot loan forgiveness program that would pay for a pilot’s training debt up to $50,000 after they have been employed with the airline for 3 years.
But first, they need to get people interested and they are doing that by investing $1 million in aviation programs for youth.
For Captain Campuzano, his day job is a dream come true.
“Just being able to do my dream every day that was amazing,” he said.