ELLENSBURG, Wash - They train airline pilots at Central Washington University and have since the mid-1970s. Now, CWU is looking to expand as it plans to meet its share of the demand for new pilots.

Boeing on Monday released its newest forecast for worldwide pilot demand, some 558,000 over the next two years - one fifth of those jobs just in North America. The demand for technicians to diagnose, maintain and repair airliners, is even higher, more than 600,000.

The report shows a 4% gain in expected demand over last year's forecast. Boeing has also raised its Current Market Outlook, its long running forecast of how many new airliners the world will buy. Right now, the CMO's 20-year estimate is the world's airlines will purchase some 38,000 new planes over that same period.

"We still have 20% of the market going to North America. We still need 95,000 new pilots over the next 20 years - still plenty of growth," said Sherry Carbary, Boeing's vice president of Flight Services. Boeing finds itself in the business of helping train and even encourage young people to consider pilot and technical jobs.

"The airlines are feeling that pinch, and they're coming to aviation programs to see how we can work with them to move forward and meet that demand," said Paul Ballard, dean of CWU's College of Education and Professional Studies.

CWU says it finds itself in a good place to graduate students directly to airlines. Two years ago FAA rules went into effect requiring pilots to have at least 1,500 hours flying time before they can to work for an airline. Graduates from CWU and some other programs only need 1,000 because of the additional aviation training they get as part of their four-year degree. Many of those students who graduate with their bachelor's have between 250 and 300 hours in Cessnas and other light aircraft. They then go to work as Certified Flight Instructors with IASCO Flight Training once they graduate. IASCO Flight Training has the contract to provide instructors and aircraft for CWU's program. Those months often get them up or close to the 1,000-hour mark.

CWU is also in talks with China about bringing prospective Chinese pilots to train here. Boeing estimates that the Asia-Pacific region will account for some 40% of the pilot need, growing airlines in the Middle East, another 20%. Many of those flying jobs are held by American and European pilots, all adding to the demand and could well into the future as those countries are able to meet their own needs.