BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — With American Airlines leaving Eugene F. Kranz Toledo Express Airport starting in September, locals will lose direct air service to Chicago. It's another casualty of a national pilot shortage that is hurting airlines both small and large.
Toledo's Port Authority said the reason behind the shortage started during the pandemic. Many airlines allowed older pilots to go into early retirement to avoid exposure. That led to many younger pilots moving into larger roles, leaving a void at the regional jet level, like Toledo Express.
It's why the ribbon cutting for the new wing of Bowling Green State University's flight school couldn't have happened at a better time.
"This expansion allows us to significantly increase our enrollment in our aviation program, which meets the needs of what the private sector is telling us they need today," said BGSU president Rodney Rogers.
Rogers said the $5 million upgrade not only offers a new space for students to learn, it offers a chance to help solve the shortage.
Their new flight simulator will allow students to practice flying jet planes while still in school.
"The jet simulator will give our students the opportunity to have training in the light jets, the business jets, which better prepares them for careers immediately in the profession," Rogers said.
Students at the ribbon cutting, like incoming junior Nina Tylutky, say they can't wait to get a chance to try it.
"I'm super excited for that because I feel like it's going to be a really good opportunity to get that feeling before we go into that real life job experience," Tylutky said.
Tylutky said it's experience that's all the more valuable given that future pilots like her are needed more than ever.