Pilots In Demand: Virgin America, NetJets, To Hire Hundreds

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Virgin America, the U.S. stepchild of Richard Branson's Virgin brand, has started hiring pilots for its base in San Francisco. The new airline is looking for six experienced pilots right now to help with starting up, then will hire more than 100 pilots later this year to staff its fleet of 33 Airbus 320-family jets. At least 5,000 hours are required, and a type rating wouldn't hurt. Branson also is interested in getting into the air-taxi business with a fleet of Eclipse jets, Andrew Broom, public relations manager at Eclipse, confirmed for AVweb, yesterday. Meanwhile, NetJets says it will hire 450 pilots in 2006. Last year, NetJets pilots represented by the Teamsters achieved a new labor agreement with substantial increases in salaries. NetJets' new hires will be based at Columbus, Teterboro, West Palm Beach, Los Angeles and Dallas. NetJets operates a range of aircraft, including Citations, Hawkers, Falcons, Gulfstream 200s and Boeings, and on international routes, Gulfstream large-cabin jets. Rapid growth in air travel is creating a pilot shortage in India and China, where training of new pilots is not keeping up with the demand. Air China is planning to look for experienced pilots from overseas to fill its seats.