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The aviation industry’s most prestigious and lucrative career path is no longer a sure thing

Instead of buying a car in college, Collis Wagner got his private pilots license.
When he lost his job as an industrial engineer during the financial crisis, he pursued his hobby full timespending years accumulating flight hours and landing a pilot job at a regional carrier. Last year, he was snapped up by American Airlines , where he flew Embraer E190 jets.
Now, Mr. Wagner, 44 years old, is driving trucks near Dayton, Ohio, after being furloughed in October. He keeps his airline caps tucked neatly in a bedroom drawer: Proof I was a pilot for real, he says.
The pandemic has changed few professions as profoundly as that of the airline pilot. For now, the aviation industrys most prestigious and lucrative career path is no longer a sure thing.
Young pilots with little seniority are being let go. Older ones are taking early retirement. A generation of aspiring airliner captains is being told not to bother for now.