Washington State Leading the Way to Train the Next Generation of Aviation Workers, Chair Cantwell Says in Committee Hearing

Cantwell: “Now more than ever, we cannot afford to leave good talent on the table”; Pilot & aerospace tech organizations in Everett, Mukilteo awarded $959k in federal grants to continue successful workforce training programs

WASHINGTON D.C. –  Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, kicked off a hearing titled “Strengthening the Aviation Workforce” by highlighting two programs in Washington state that help young people start careers as pilots, aerospace engineers and aviation maintenance technicians.

Sen. Cantwell cited the Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club, the Mukilteo-based chapter of Black Pilots of America helping introduce underrepresented youths to aviation and practical STEM applications, and Aviation Technical Services, Inc., which works with students at Sno-Isle Tech and Everett Community College to set up paid apprenticeship programs in technical aviation fields for high school students.

“Now more than ever, we cannot afford to leave good talent on the table,” Sen. Cantwell said. “We need to consider policies that will help drive down those costs and get more students into that aviation talent pool … these Washington state organizations are training the next generation of aviation professionals, and Congress should consider more ways to build up this successful program.”

Both programs recently received federal grants from the Aviation Workforce Development Program, which was established by the Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Pilot Program, spearheaded by Sen. Cantwell in 2018. The Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club was awarded $500,000; Aviation Technical Services, Inc. (ATI), received $459,206.

Since the apprenticeship program at ATS launched in 2019, they’ve had a total of 132 graduate apprentices, of which 66 have gone on to become FAA certified. ATS currently has 85 apprentices in their airframe maintenance program. After completing the ATS apprenticeship program, graduates are eligible to pursue FAA certification. More details about ATS’s apprenticeship program are available HERE.

“The Red-Tailed Hawks Chapter, Black Pilots of America, Inc.(BPA) is forever grateful for the FAA Pilot Workforce Development Award (WDA)...When you remove the barrier of funding, you open up possibilities for those that are systematically not included,” Jesse D. Hayes IV, President of Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club, wrote in a letter to Sen. Cantwell.

“Aviation Technical Services (ATS) is grateful for the FAA Aviation Maintenance Technical Workers Workforce Development Award (AWD) we recently received,” Paul Dolan, CEO of ATS, wrote in a letter to Sen. Cantwell. “The FAA AWD Grant funding allows us to expand our workforce development initiatives, including ATS Academy. Our workforce development program helps us secure our core business for the long-term and, importantly, contributes qualified aviation technicians to the national aviation ecosystem.”

In the hearing, Sen. Cantwell highlighted the future needs of the aviation workforce in Washington state and nationwide. Over the next 20 years, North America will need 128,000 pilots, 134,000 maintenance workers and 173,000 crew members in order to meet the projected growth of the commercial aviation industry, she said. Tapping underrepresented communities and removing barriers to training will play a vital role – currently, women make up just 5 percent of airline pilots and 12 percent of aerospace engineers, while less than 15 percent of pilots and engineers are Black, Hispanic or Asian.

“The U.S. aircraft manufacturing sector is expected to hire more than 10,000 workers in 2023 as production increases continue to rise, and careers in this field offer highly-skilled, good-paying jobs with an average salary of over $106,000, about 40 percent above the national average,” Sen. Cantwell continued. “We’re proud of this talented workforce, particularly in my home state: the State of Washington is home to more than 130,000 aerospace workers, and a supply chain that works with more than 1,500 suppliers. With post-pandemic aviation growth, we now face new challenges, and we need to develop a pipeline of qualified workers.”

Video of Sen. Cantwell’s remarks at the hearing can be viewed HERE, and audio can be heard HERE. A transcript of her remarks is available HERE.