Lewis University's graduating pilots hopeful careers will take flight despite COVID-19 pandemic

ROMEOVILLE, Ill. (WLS) -- The class of 2020 is heading into a troubled job market, particularly in the airline industry. But even in the face of such uncertainty, some new pilots say they're confident their careers will take off.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, upcoming Lewis University graduate Raed Sankari was planning to quickly rack up his pilot hours and fly for a regional airline by November.

With air travel at a standstill, the TSA is reporting year over year more than a 93% decline in the number of passengers at U.S. airports.

"We don't even know what one month from now will look like with airlines and flight training and all that," Sankari said.

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Ulises Bonilla was living his dream before the novel coronavirus outbreak, training with a regional carrier.

The Lewis University graduate said he's been furloughed.

"It really is, and pardon the pun, up in the air until we really get a good sense of when things are going to go back," Bonilla said.

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It's a grim reality across the U.S. economy. Over 4% of employers are now revoking full-time offers, with several more weighing the possibility, according to an April poll from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

"It's going to be a very difficult slog for new grads over the next couple of months," said Edwin Koc, of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

But the graduating pilots at Lewis University are ready for turbulence, and optimistic that demand will return.

"All of this will hinge on when will the public feel comfortable to start flying," said Dr. Ryan Phillips, the university's aviation and transportation chair.

Phillips said he hopes to have students back in the skies next month, with added COVID-19 safety precautions in place.
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