Horizon Air will pay for part of tuitiion of students at Hillsboro Aero Academy, an airplane and helicopter pilot training school.

COURTESY: HILLSBORO AERO - Hillsboro Aero Academy, a flight training school at the Hillsboro Airport, has partnered with an Alaska Airlines subsidiary, which has agreed to pay for part of the cost of teaching students to fly in the hopes of attracting new pilots to the commercial airline industry.A Seattle-based regional airline has announced that it will pay for the schooling of any aspiring pilots if they take their training at a Hillsboro flight school.

Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group, announced this week it had partnered with Hillsboro Aero Academy, offering tuition stipends and job opportunities for Hillsboro students.

Horizon Air will pay for up to $7,500 per student in school costs. Eligible students must have completed private pilot certification and are working toward completing their commercial pilot certificate.

Students who complete the program will receive job offers as pilots and first officers with Horizon Air, a regional airline flying under the Alaska Airlines banner to 39 cities across the U.S. and Canada.

The pilots are desperately needed. The commercial airline industry will need more than a half-million new pilots over the next two decades, according to the 2016 Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook report. That's about 28,000 new pilots each year just to keep up with demand.

According to Horizon, the partnership with Hillsboro Aero is aimed at getting more pilots in the sky.

"With the looming pilot shortage, Horizon is excited to partner with high quality aviation programs, like Hillsboro Aero Academy to enhance our recruiting efforts and ensure the next generation of pilots look to Horizon as a place they can build their career in aviation," LaMar Haugaard, Horizon Air director of pilot development and recruiting, said in a written statement.

Hillsboro Aero said the demand for new pilots has forced airlines to develop "creative solution to attract more prospective pilots" to the aviation industry.

For years, pilots have learned to fly at the Hillsboro Airport, the state's largest commercial air field.

Hillsboro Aero is one of the largest helicopter and airplane flight training schools in the country, training about 700 pilots each year at its three Oregon campuses.

The company started as a helicopter flight school with Hillsboro Aviation in 1980, but Hillsboro Aviation sold the school to two private equity firms, Renovus Capital Parnters and Graycliff Partners, in 2014.

Hillsboro Aero has said it will chip in $143,000 in advanced certifications training to the students, allowing them to train in more specialized skills.

"This trend signals a robust and growing sector for aspiring pilots and exceptional career opportunities well into the future," Hillsboro Aero's president and CEO Jon Hay said. "We believe our collaboration with Horizon Air provides aspiring pilots with an outstanding opportunity to complete their full certifications and an unparalleled opportunity to kick start their career with quality training, and employment with a regional hallmark carrier."

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