This new partnership promises to push the world of professional pilot training even further, making the dream a reality for those for whom a traditional degree isn’t realistic.
In the face of a looming pilot shortage that could make past shortages look like mere “blips” on the radar, a creative approach to flight training has been announced. Two major players in the pilot-training arena, Air Transport Professionals (ATP) and Mountain State University (MSU), have combined to create a degree/flight-training program that gives busy students, working pilots and career-switchers a way to accomplish their aviation dreams.
Industry projections indicate a significant pilot shortage starting in the next two to five years. Pilots are going to be in high demand for several reasons: current pilots reaching retirement age (which was extended to 65 in 2007), a dwindling supply of military pilots, a decline in the number of general aviation student pilots, growing demand in foreign markets, a large increase in orders for airliners, furloughed pilots leaving the industry and an increase in worldwide air travel due to increasing populations and globalization.
While naysayers point to the supply of roughly 3,000 out-of-work airline pilots on the furlough lists, that number won’t even come close once even a minor recovery begins. The current global backlog of firm orders for airliner aircraft stands at 7,500, according to Flightglobal’s Insight Fleetwatch database. Boeing—which publishes an annual projection that experts say has been accurate for more than four decades—is forecasting a global need for 448,000 new airline pilots over the next 20 years. Sources closer to the GA market, such as industry hiring experts Judy Tarver and Louis Smith from FltOps.com, project a need for roughly 42,000 pilots over the next decade. And what are the airlines doing about it? Not much, and that’s where ATP and MSU come in.
While regional airlines don’t require a college degree to get hired, major airlines do, and even with regional carriers, more than 60% of pilots hired have a college degree. Traditionally, you could go off to any one of several outstanding universities that have a flying program and earn your degree while getting your ratings. But for many people, leaving for four years and dedicating their life to the pursuit of a degree and pilot training is not realistic. Career-changers, working professionals or anybody with a busy schedule may need more flexibility in their learning. In aviation, there weren’t too many choices for those folks.
In the first program of its kind, ATP has announced a partnership with Mountain State University that allows a professional pilot student to earn his or her bachelor’s degree online, while training for their ratings at any of ATP’s 22 locations. The idea is that a student can train nationwide at any ATP location and fulfill his or her college course work online, earning college credit for both the flying and the academic portions, resulting in a bachelor’s degree. Pilots who already have advanced ratings can opt to do just the course work or a mix, and MSU accepts credits from past college courses.
The training program—called the “Airline Career Pilot Program”—is front-loaded so the student earns all his or her certificates and ratings in the first 16 months while doing online academics. After 16 months, the student graduates from ATP’s flying program with an associate’s degree. The student would continue to fly either as an instructor or within a small carrier, and finish the 45 additional credit hours of online course work to earn his or her bachelor’s degree in Professional Pilot Operations. The online medium is flexible by design and fits the pilot lifestyle well, accommodating ATP’s intensive training regimen and the working pilot’s schedule.
A program like this is critical because of today’s lack of available financing for flight students. By combining with MSU’s academic curriculum, ATP is able to source funding opportunities for flight students not available before, including “Sallie Mae” loans and the post-9/11 VA education financing. On the flying side, students finish with nearly 300 hours of logged time, including 100 hours of highly sought multi-engine pilot-in-command (PIC) time. All of it is augmented by ATP’s Advanced Jet Training course.
ATP offers its unique fixed-cost pricing so you know exactly what your training will cost up front. The entire course from zero time, including the bachelor’s degree, is currently priced at $91,118 and includes all tuition and flight-training costs. The only things not included are books, charts and approach plates, headset and kneeboard. The online courses work out to $340/credit hour.
Students can take advantage of ATP’s 26 years in the airline pilot training business and its fleet of 143 training aircraft across the nation. Available housing, a curriculum dedicated to professional pilots (including nationwide cross-country flights with hotel accommodations), and a large airline recruiting department with extensive experience are just a few of the things ATP is known for. Pilots who wish to build hours and remain within the ATP “family” can stay on as flight instructors.
Mountain State University—which chose ATP as its flight-training arm—has a history dating back to 1933. Located in West Virginia, the not-for-profit school started as a junior college called “Beckley College” and has grown over the decades to become a masters- and doctoral-level university. Today the university enrolls some 8,800 students, with 30% out of state. The college became “Mountain State University” in 2001, and has become a leader in the distance-learning arena with a system of branch campuses and collaboration with focused education partners like ATP.
With the help of technology, a world-recognized flight-training academy, and a top-notch university, the MSU/ATP college degree program has made becoming a professional pilot even easier. When the shortage comes, be ready. Visit www.atpflightschool.com/aviation-college-degree and www.mountainstate.edu/majors/whystudy/aviation.