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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:

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Carly Keenan

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


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