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Celtics helping raise awareness about pilot shortage in the U.S.

The third annual “JetBlue Rookie Flight Crew” program took off Wednesday morning at Winthrop Middle School, where the Celtics and JetBlue once again launched an educational campaign to inform a select group of 30 students about STEM-related opportunities within a workforce suffering from low supply and high demand.

“The aviation industry over the next 15 years or so is going to have a lot of people retiring,” JetBlue pilot Becca Petro told “Pilots have a mandatory retirement age of 65, and we don’t have nearly the people coming in that are going to be retiring.”

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the number of pilots in the United States has decreased by 30 percent over the past three decades. Petro, who started flying at 19 because her dad was a pilot, attributed the shortage to cost as well as a lack of awareness.

“A lot of people don’t know it’s an option,” she said. “A lot of these kids have no idea that they can just go to a local airport and take some lessons. They don’t necessarily have to go to college or go into the military.”

If the impending shortage isn’t addressed, Petro expects fewer flights and destinations to be available for consumers. Through “JetBlue Rookie Flight Crew” and similar programs, Petro hopes students can gain the necessary exposure and access to the industry.

“Everybody always says the kids are the future,” added Celtics center Aron Baynes, who was on hand at Winthrop Middle School Wednesday.

Over the next 10 weeks, the students will continue to follow an aviation-focused curriculum that will involve visits from JetBlue employees of differing career paths. On Wednesday, for example, the students learned about how aircraft obtain lift and the importance of low air pressure. The program will culminate with the construction of fully functioning model airplanes to be unveiled at Logan International Airport. 

Aron Baynes

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