WEYERS CAVE, Va. (WHSV) — Alex Kelley has been with Blue Ridge Aviation in Weyers Cave since 2015. He started out as a flight instructor and is now in a management position.
"My dad was a private pilot, and I was at James Madison University as a history major," Kelley said. "One day, I went out and went up in an airplane for an introductory lesson and after that, I was hooked."
Like most of his students, he started in the career with no experience in aviation. Students come out and do an introductory lesson to learn the basic fundamentals of flying. They then work toward a private pilot license and can add additional writings, such as instrument ratings or commercial licenses, which allow them to fly for hire.
According to economic statistics gathered by the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board, the salary range for a commercial pilot is from $48,600 to $110,400. There's a projected demand for 114 commercial pilots in our area over the next decade. Commercial pilots usually require at least a post-secondary non-degree award.
Kelley said Boeing estimated in 2018 that roughly 700,000 pilot jobs would be available by 2037, and about 40% of current airline pilots will retire in the next decade. The airline industry will need to hire new pilots to keep up with those retiring, along with growing demand.
"It's a fun experience, going up and flying every day, especially when we get to teach people and have them experience the same feelings that we had when we learned to fly for the first time," Kelley said.