Skip to Content

Ascend Academy: New Redmond flight program breaks barriers for aspiring pilots amid shortage

New program as pipeline for pilots

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- There's a serious pilot shortage around the country, after the pandemic prompted early retirement by thousands of pilots. But the cost to get the training to become a pilot can be anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 -- a major hurdle that can be tough to clear.

In an effort to fill the cockpits, the Hillsboro Aero Academy is partnering with Horizon and Alaska Airlines to create the Ascend Academy Program.

The airlines are offering students low-interest financial aid, a $25,000 stipend -- and a conditional job offer.

Student Heidi Roth says she wouldn't be able to pursue her dream of becoming a pilot without the program.

"I was going to go into a lot of debt before the $25,000," Roth told NewsChannel 21 on Wednesday. "So that kind of takes a weight off my shoulders."

It also gives her a direct pipeline to getting hired, something she says can be difficult.

"Getting in with the airlines as having no aviation background in my family, in the airline industry -- this gives me a step straight into it," Roth said.

A unique thing about the Ascend Program is students will eventually fly for airlines that serve the local Redmond Airport.

"I think a lot of smaller market airports have seen their routes decrease, there's just not enough pilots to go around for all their locations," said Nik Kresse, vice president of airplane flight operations for HAA. "And so I think it's really important for airlines to find new and solid ways to have a pilot pipeline, so that we can continue to service airports such as Redmond in the future."

Interested students can learn more about Ascend Pilot Academy and enroll at:

Author Profile Photo

Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.



    1. Well, in order for fly for a FAR 121 Air Carrier (all major, regional airlines) a junior first officer candidate still needs the requisite 1500 flight hours prior to even being eligible to test for their Airline Transport Pilot certificate. So by the time they reach this mile-point, whether through military or civilian means they are incredibly qualified. This includes all instrument flight operations as well. As recent as 2009, pilot candidates for regional airlines only needed 750 hours for FAR 121 operations as some were even accepted with 250 hours for FAR 135 air carriers (charter and limited regional). This ended after the crash of Colgan Air flight 3407 when it was found that the pilot and first officer were woefully under-qualified. Since the FAA regulations regarding commercial travel are the absolute strictest in the entire world, an “aspiring pilot” reaches airline employment having passed the toughest barriers to their job industry that have been created.

  1. That’s what we need, more “aspiring” student pilots when they are already poisoning the life of the locals by circling above their head non-stop.

      1. I was here before HAA made the area like it was under constant Luftwaffe raid. As I was pointing out, nobody complains about the regular air traffic but MANY complains about HAA constant flyovers and circling over residential areas.

  2. Maybe firing everyone over a non FDA approved vaccine is a really dumb idea, especially when you can still get covid and spread it. It’s not stopping the spread. Originally “you can’t get covid if you get vaxxed, no masks or mandates for those vaxxed”. Two months later, “you are less likely to get really sick, but you can still get covid and pass it along”.

    So, if you can still get covid and spread it, why is anyone fired for not getting the non-vaxx?

Leave a Reply

Skip to content