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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Many are flying the friendly skies again, but finding a captain to make the in-flight announcement is getting tougher.

“Everybody is having an issue finding pilots,” said Tyler Tenbrink, director of talent acquisition for Piedmont Airlines. “Right now, we are captain constrained, which means we are short on the pilots that are able to upgrade into the left seat.”

Some, like Piedmont, are fighting hard to get pilots.

Piedmont Airlines announced an incentive plan for direct entry captains paying up to $100,000 in signing bonuses, plus the pilot could carry over years of service.

“We want to make sure we are getting the best of the best, and we are all wanting people to come into our air carriers,” Tenbrink said. “And I think that is why we are incentivizing it.”

Piedmont officials plan to increase the number of flights offered in 2023 – 2024. They say there’s a gap between the number of aircraft they want to fly and the people at the controls.

“That’s a band-aid, and everybody knows that’s where the industry is currently,” Aaron Hollewell said.

Hollewell is a flight instructor at Gastonia’s Academy of Aviation. He said many are watching the battle for pilots closely.

Schools like the Academy of Aviation say student enrollment is up. However, a potential student’s path from no training to a job as a captain takes a minimum of three years.

Students are in the pipeline, but until they are ready, the quest for qualified individuals continues.

“They’re doing what they need to accomplish things,” says Hollewell. “That means if they need to try and steal pilots from other areas of industry, whether that’s other airlines or parcel carriers, or firefighting operations or whatever they need to get qualified individuals in, that’s kind of the steps they’re taking.”