LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – A new program could get kids into an entirely different kind of classroom – the sky.

Eaton Regional Education School Agency is partnering with the Capital Region International Airport to train the next generation of pilots.

“The best time to learn is when you don’t think you’re learning,” said Sean Williams, superintendent of Eaton RESA.

With the school year fast approaching, Williams said the Capital Region International Airport approached him with a new idea.

“They told us about a pretty impending crisis with the lack of commercial pilots in the area,” Williams said.

Across the United States, airlines are struggling to find pilots to hire. So, the head of the Capital Region International Airport decided to launch a local search.

“This will help support, not just Lansing, but airports throughout the state of Michigan by bringing pilots into a very needed and lucrative area today – compared to years ago,” said Nicole Noll-Williams, CEO of Capital Region Airport Authority.

The new pilot program, managed by Eaton RESA, begins in fall 2023. It will launch with a group of 40 students from across the Greater Lansing area.

“It’s primarily juniors and seniors, but like all our programs, even freshman and sophomores could apply,” Williams said.

When the program begins the students will spend half of their day at school and the rest at the airport.

“We want to get them in the airport. That’s where they’re going to really pick up the knowledge and the feeling of being commercial pilots,” Williams said.

The program for each student will last two years. Students will use flight simulators and learn what it takes to become a pilot.

Afterward, they can pursue their commercial license or explore a different route on their own.

“My biggest hope is exposure to the industry. They might another pathway if they don’t want to be a pilot, that might be really appealing to them,” Williams said.

More information about the program will be available in the fall.