FVTC, UW-Oshkosh hope to meet need for more pilots
July 24, 2014
From thenorthwestern.com: “FVTC, UW-Oshkosh hope to make a dent in projected pilot gap” — By Noell Dickmann – A dark cloud is looming above the aviation industry: A predicted shortage of pilots by 2022 will affect everyone who travels by air.
Jared Huss, Fox Valley Technical College Aeronautics Pilot Training Lead Instructor, said a shortage of pilots will mean fewer planes in the air and fewer seats for passengers – pushing up the cost of air travel.
“Everything’s kind of pointing to that perfect storm of that happening,” Huss said.
In response to the shortage, colleges are making changes to get more pilots into the work force faster. In Oshkosh, FVTC and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh established a partnership to help meet the demand for pilots.
Huss said there are a number of reasons for the shortage, including mandatory retirements and duty time regulation changes in the wake of Continental Flight 3407s crash into a house near Buffalo, N.Y. in 2009 that killed 50.
Pilots must now have more uninterrupted rest between flights and are required to have an ATP license, or Airline Transport Pilot license, which mandates 1,500 flight hours as a pilot. Regional airlines could previously hire pilots with 250 hours, but now legally cannot, Huss said.
The 1,500-hour qualification poses a problem for pilot-training graduates, who in general come out of aeronautics programs with 250-300 flight hours.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) forecasts that 18,000 pilots from major airlines in the United States will reach mandatory retirement age by 2022. The GAO also forecasts that regional airlines will need about 4,500 pilots per year for the next decade to fill the void.
However, studies show the flight-training industry can only support between 2,500-3,000 pilots per year.
To help fill that void, graduates from two-year schools with programs that are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration can qualify for a restricted ATP at 1,250 hours instead.
FVTC is applying for that certification. Students will have the option to graduate with a technical diploma in two years, and can return for a third year to earn their associate’s degree and flight instructor certificate. The changes will give FVTC the ability to double its capacity, graduating an average of 16 pilots per year.
“I realize that when there’s a demand for 4,500 pilots a year that’s…a drop in the bucket, but we’re doing what we can to stretch that and grow our capacity,” Huss said. “And if all the other flight training programs out there can do something similar to scale, then hopefully we can ramp it up for the need.”
The typical path of graduates is to go on to be a flight instructor and build the hours they need, then move up to a regional airline, continuing to build hours and work their way up to a major airline.
“We send graduates all over, anywhere from those commercial type of jobs, like [pilots for] the skydiver, crop dusting, aerial photography, all the way up to corporate pilot and airline pilot as well,” Huss said.
In the long run, a new collaboration with UWO could be recognized for a restricted ATP at 1,000 hours as well.
The partnership between the schools allows FVTC graduates to earn a Bachelor of Applied Studies degree with an emphasis in aviation management from UWO online, and they can do it while they’re working. It allows them to get in the work force sooner and build more flight time.
Take Kodye Shier, who graduated from FVTC in 2011 and went on to be a paid flight instructor intern at FVTC for two years. He built up about 1,000 hours of flight experience, and is now a corporate pilot for Menards based in Eau Claire.
Originally from Rice Lake, the 24-year-old now has 1,600 flight hours under his wings and flies Menards staff all over the Midwest on a daily basis.
He said taking the route he did has put him ahead – on average he has about 250 more flight hours than other pilots he sees with the same level of experience.
Shier is working part-time toward his bachelor’s degree through the online program with UWO. He said the degree will help him when looking for jobs.
“I think with aviation timing is everything,” Shier said. “And I feel like where I’m at right now is a very comfortable spot as far as timing.”
Huss said not all FVTC graduates want to be airline pilots – actually, he sees many going the corporate route like Shier did for stability.
“We just want to have our program and partnership with UW-Oshkosh to be as best set up as possible so that if our graduates want to go that route, that they’re set up and ready to go as best as they can.”