LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Airlines are hiring at the highest rate in decades and the demand for new pilots is giving many the chance to fill the gap with more women.
Danielle Frye told 8 News Now she knew she wanted to become a pilot.
Her journey with aviation began as a flight attendant for Las Vegas-based Allegiant Airlines which lasted four years.
Then she says the pandemic hit, followed by a divorce, which gave the newly single, mother of two a new opportunity.
“During that time I thought, what is going to be my next step in life, being a flight attendant isn’t my end game, I think it’s time to take the leap,” she said.
Danielle said she began flight school in 2020. Now has her private pilot’s license, and is working on her instrument rating, and hopes to become a certified flight instructor by year’s end.
The training doesn’t come cheap and it requires 250 hours of flight time.
All in Aviation flight school in Henderson is where she’s getting certified.
Paul Sallach is the president at All in Aviation and explained the process of getting certified.
“At any given time have about 45 to 60 students that are going through to get licenses toward an eventual career,” he said.
Both Paul and his wife went to college to become pilots, but then September 11th happened.
“The airlines stopped hiring pilots and cut the pay, made it an unglamorous job,” he added.
As they waited for the industry to recover, the couple became instructors, eventually opening their own flight school in 2016.
“Fun way to share your passion and at the same time be able to make a living at it,” Sallach told 8 News Now.
But he told 8 News Now, that once his organization trains its flight instructors, retaining them can be a challenge.
“We’re hoping to get more applicants in to fill the vacuum, airlines are taking people really really fast right now,” he said.
The airlines are in a full-on hiring frenzy, due to the mandatory 65-year-old retirement age.
Most airlines are projecting a pilot shortage over the next decade.
More than 800,000 pilots will be needed, with more than 200,000 in the U.S., alone.
There are only about 65,000 female pilots in the world, which accounts for 9% of the total.
Out of the 13,000 pilots in the U.S., only 900 of them are women like Frye.
“I’m hoping being a woman in aviation, as there are not too many of us, helps me move through the ranks faster,” she said.
Experts say with continued efforts in education and outreach, more women may soon move into higher profile aviation roles as well.
Frye said she is up for the challenge. She has completed 1500 flight hours, among other credentials.
She added that she hopes to complete it all by the time she turns 35-years-old and said she also has advice for other women looking to enter the field.
“Don’t give up, if someone tells you you can’t – you absolutely can. I was a single mom and I work full time, I fly, and there’s nothing stopping you besides you. Push through it,” Frye said.
Airlines are trying to help bridge the gap.
This year alone, United Airlines, started teaching students at its own flight school in Arizona.
The airline’s goal is to train 5,000 pilots by 2030.
The company aims for half of that number to be women or people of color.
United said it will cover the cost of pilots training up to the point of receiving their private pilot’s license.