Roanoke flight school opens doors, cockpits to the community

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - A local flight school wants to show more people what it's like to fly - and in doing so help ease the worldwide pilot shortage.

Star Flight Training in Roanoke is hosting open house events to show people around.

"If you can drive a car, you can fly an airplane," said head instructor Jon Beard. "It doesn't take a super genius to do this, it doesn't take someone who is super book smart, it doesn't take someone who is super hands on, just a balance of skills... It does take a sense of adventure. That's one thing you have to have!"

Instructors say while it's not a sales pitch is the industry is desperately in need of pilots, women in particular. The shortage is due in part to stricter regulations and forced retirement.

"Things like barrier to entry of all the things you have to go to before you can take that airline job combined with, not just growth in the industry, but a returning growth in the economy and more travel and more demand," Beard said. "That's not just in the U.S. When you look worldwide, like China and other countries that are experiencing big growth, they have just as much or even more demand. So people who train to be pilots, can go anywhere and fly for anyone which means people are fighting to get any pilot they can."

One of the events is an Open House Cookout. Instructors say everyone is welcome to come, see the planes, learn about flight and get a close up look at the airport.

"The idea that airports are sometimes hard to get into anymore we try to fix that, Beard said. "We just opened our doors and let them in and enjoy the day"

The other event is called Woman Can Fly, based off of a nationwide event to encourage more women to join the industry. According to flight instructor Jon Beard, female pilots only make up about six percent of the total pilot population. Instructors say representatives from the airlines, military, business and recreational aviation will be invited to showcase aviation’s diverse field for career opportunities.

The Open House Cookout is Sunday, June 24th from 1 to 3 p.m. Everyone is welcome.

The Women Can Fly event is Saturday, June 30 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

They are located at 22 Waypoint Dr NW, Roanoke, VA 24012.