Vaughn College's flight simulator training next generation of pilots, air traffic controllers

ByAnthony Carlo WABC logo
Monday, July 31, 2023
Flight simulator training much-needed pilots, air traffic controllers
A flight simulator at Vaughn College is training the next generation of pilots and air traffic controllers amid a shortage in the aviation industry. Anthony Carlo with the latest.

EAST ELMHURST, Queens (WABC) -- A flight simulator at a college in Queens is helping to train the next generation of pilots and air traffic controllers at a time when airlines are dealing with pilot shortages that have led to countless delays for travelers.

Steven Duran flew in a simulator at Vaughn College in Queens on Monday. One day, he hopes to be in the cockpit of one of the big commercial planes next door at LaGuardia Airport. It's a job with big responsibilities.

"It's something that's always in the back of your head," Duran said. "Especially when operating an airplane. Even the trainer like we do, we always have to operate it to a high standard.

There's a need for more people like Duran.

According to Boeing's report, that came out just last week, i says commercial aviation will need 649,000 pilots over the next two decades. This year's forecast marks the first increased need since the pandemic decimated air travel in 2020.

"In my 27 years at Vaughn, have never seen industry demand like this," Vaugh College President Sharon Devivo.

There is demand for more diversity in the field as well, the president of the aviation institution says.

In 2022, out of more than 162,000 commercial pilots, only 5.5% were women, and less than 2% were Black.

Vaughn boasts that more than 80% of its student population is from underrepresented communities.

"Unless you've got a brother, cousin, uncle, typically white, who's involved in the aviation industry, you tend not to know. Any job you think of you can do in aviation," Devivo.

"Originally my goal was to become a pilot," graduate student Najma Jaima said.

That was until Jaima saw what it was like to be an air traffic controller and perhaps discovered her purpose.

"You don't have room for mistakes," she said. "You always have to be on top of everything."

Instructors at Vaughn College say there's not only a pilot shortage but an air traffic controller shortage.

They're encouraging the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to look at other resources to increase the number of people training and accelerate the processes to train them for the very important job of helping planes take off and land.


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