U.S. needs pilots; here's what Clover schools are doing to help

Clover High School Air Force JROTC students perform drills during class Wednesday.
Clover High School Air Force JROTC students perform drills during class Wednesday.

Students who wish to obtain a private pilot’s license can potentially save thousands of dollars thanks to a new course coming to Clover High School.

An Aviation Honors Ground School course will be offered to Clover High School juniors and seniors this fall, according to the school district. Registration for classes begins Thursday.

Junior and senior students with at least one unit of Air Force Junior ROTC may apply for the course.

The class prepares students interested in the aviation field to take the Federal Aviation Administration written exam that is required as part of the process to obtain a private pilot’s license, said Maj. Brian Batson, who teaches Clover High School’s AFJROTC program.

The Clover school district is bringing in a certified civilian flight instructor to assist in teaching the course.

Clover is the only district in York County to offer this type of course, Batson said.

Individuals must be 17 years old or older and pass a written and practical, or flying, test to get a private pilot’s license, according to the FAA.

More pilots are needed across the country in both the military and private sectors, Batson said. He said the Air Force needs 1,500 pilots. The country’s commercial airlines, he said, will have about 20,000 pilot jobs to fill over the next seven years and more than 115,000 jobs will need to be filled over the next two decades.

“There is a growing need,” Batson said. “We’re trying to bring back the luster of aviation jobs and get people excited about being a pilot again.”

That need is, in part, due to the mandatory 65-year-old retirement age for pilots, he said.

Clover’s aviation course can save students who wish to get their private pilot’s license thousands of dollars as they prepare for and take the written exam through the school, Batson said.

A passing result is good for two years, according to the FAA.

“We’re trying to give them another opportunity for some great employment and a great career,” Batson said. “At the same time, there is a shortage of pilots out there so it makes a lot of sense.”

Students who want to pursue their private pilot’s license would still need to complete the required flight hours. The entire process can cost more than $10,000, Batson said.

The class will also help students be more competitive for scholarships offered through the Air Force Junior ROTC’s private pilot license summer training program, Batson said.

Students must pass an aviation qualification test as part of the scholarship application. Clover’s course covers that material.

“Our hope is that this new course along with the Flight Academy scholarships will drive enthusiasm for aerospace and STEM careers, while offering valuable opportunities for aspiring aviators,” a Clover school district statement reads.

Senior Clover High School Air Force Junior ROTC cadets Patrick Belsan and James Boone, along with junior cadet Samantha Burris, received full scholarships to attend this summer’s program, according to the Clover school district.

The scholarship, worth $20,000, covers room and board, academics, transportation and the required flight hours to earn a private pilot’s license.

The program is offered at six universities that partner with schools, including Kansas State University, Auburn University and Purdue University.

Participants are not required to join the Air Force or other branch of service and the program does not guarantee acceptance into one of the military’s commissioning programs, a release states.

The Clover students are three of 120 cadets around the world to receive the scholarship from Headquarters AFJROTC located at the Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., a release states. More than 120,000 high school students are enrolled in the AFJROTC program and more than 700 cadets applied for the scholarships.

The Air Force is offering 250 scholarships for next summer’s program, Batson said.

He said Clover’s class is one way students can see if aviation is a career option they want to pursue.

“We’re trying to get the kids pointed in an employable direction,” Batson said. “When they walk across the stage, we want them to have an idea of what they are going to do.”

Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082