Total enrollment at ERAU university-wide is 32,000 full-time students.
In 1925, when barnstormer John Paul Riddle and entrepreneur T. Higbee Embry founded the Embry-Riddle Company at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati, Ohio, they probably had no idea their company would turn into one of the most recognized private aviation universities in the world. After morphing into an aviation training school to take advantage of the post-World War I fascination with aviation, they prepared some 25,000 aviators for combat in World War II. Today, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduates astronauts, corporate pilots and test pilots and is the nation’s largest supplier of air traffic controllers with bachelor’s degrees to the FAA. Embry-Riddle’s Aeronautical Science (professional pilot) program is the largest in the nation, so it’s no surprise that airlines hire more pilots from Embry-Riddle than from any other collegiate aviation program.
Embry-Riddle (“ERAU” for short) operates two main residential campuses in the United States: Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz. Its Worldwide Campus, serving both civilians and the military, operates 150 non-residential classroom locations in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and also offers online instruction. University-wide, total enrollment is about 32,000 full-time students. International students comprise 15% of the student body at the Daytona Beach Campus and 6% at the Prescott Campus. ERAU is also addressing the growing need for engineers worldwide through its aerospace engineering program, the largest in the United States.
We spoke with Jerry Kidrick, Flight Chair at ERAU’s Prescott campus, and Tim Brady, Dean of Embry-Riddle’s College of Aviation in Daytona Beach, to get an update on Embry-Riddle, and to ask how the FAA’s most recent training and rest minimums are affecting the nation’s largest aeronautical university. We also wanted to see if ERAU is feeling the effects of a pilot shortage that appears to be coming fast.
About the shortage, Kidrick commented, “The ERAU Prescott campus experienced a 3% growth in enrollment last fall. It is too early to determine the extent at which the pilot shortage will affect our enrollment numbers. However, the pilot shortage has been validated by numerous air carriers, and they have been prompted to offer bonuses for new hires and approached ERAU to refine bridge programs that identify potential new hires at the undergraduate level.” Kidrick added that the school’s students are deeply embedded with regional carriers through these bridge programs, and that some graduates will even be given advanced seniority given their connection to the carrier. The university’s records seem to bear this out with 93% of graduates either employed or continuing their education. “In many cases [the bridge programs] involve an internship with the prospective air carrier,” Kidrick noted, “which essentially turns into an extended interview.”
As of August 1, 2013, all U.S. airline first officers are required to meet more rigorous minimum qualifications than have ever been in place and that were designed to improve airline safety after the tragic Colgan Air crash in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009. The new rule mandates that airline first officers hold an air transport pilot (ATP) certificate that requires a pilot be at least 23 years old and have logged at least 1,500 hours of flight time. A “Restricted” ATP certificate allows pilots to be only 21 years old and have 1,000 flight hours, if trained in a four-year college or university-accredited aviation training program leading to a bachelor’s degree. ERAU was on the forefront of this exclusion. “Immediately upon FAA action on the new rule, there was tremendous demand for the Restricted ATP among our graduates,” Kidrick explained. “Our degree program was in the first cadre of FAA-approved programs in the country.”
Embry-Riddle’s two main residential campuses are at Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz.
Embry-Riddle is also embedded in the military and scientific communities. The university has a $23 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense that maintains the University’s long-time status as the sole provider of aviation-related degree programs to the U.S. military in Europe. The school also conducts approximately $17 million per year in applied research. Its fleet of 88 training aircraft and 40 simulators and flight training devices (FTD) allow aviation students to keep up with changing technology and gain a wide variety of flight experiences. The bulk of the fleet consists of Cessna and Diamond training aircraft, but the school wisely includes an American Champion Decathlon for unusual attitude and upset training. In the past three years, Embry-Riddle Prescott has also added four Diamond DA42NG “Twinstar” multi-engine training airplanes to their fleet.
Academically, ERAU is tough to beat. They offer more than 40 undergraduate programs in everything from space physics to unmanned aircraft systems. The university also offers respected master’s degree and doctoral programs in several areas of aeronautics including aerospace engineering, human factors and many others. ERAU also offers a number of non-degree programs. For those interested in the exploding field of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the University has 14 state-of-the-art Medium Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) simulators capable of operating as individual pilot/sensor workstations or paired together to simulate the crew station of a UAS.
Kidrick told us the Prescott campus has added three new programs: a bachelor’s in Cyber Intelligence and Security, a master’s in Security and Intelligence Studies and a bachelor’s in Astronomy. Brady said the Daytona campus added a new Bachelor of Science degree in commercial space operations and a brand-new CRJ-200 full-motion simulator. “Being the only college with a full-flight CRJ simulator, we are the only university that can fully prepare a right seat-ready first officer,” added Tim Brady.
ERAU’s “flagship” Aeronautical Science degree is currently undergoing a top-down review for academic and flight training synchronization. Kidrick said, “Ultimately, we plan for this program to bring our students from “zero” time through the CFI and ATP qualification in an efficient and cost effective manner.” He added that graduates can work for the university as flight instructors and work on their master’s degree at the same time, free of cost. “Our graduates will be the best qualified collegiate program graduates in the country.”
Of course, a stellar education from such a respected institution doesn’t come cheap. The 2013-2014 estimate to attend Embry-Riddle for one year for non-flight students is $42,294 including room and board. Add flight costs to that figure for pilot trainees. Still, what a student gains from attending ERAU is valuable, especially for those with a dream of becoming a professional pilot. “The future is very rosy for students who wish to become airline pilots,” Brady said. He believes the current worldwide shortage of pilots will persist well into the future, and that ERAU graduates can only benefit. “We are the only university in the country which is totally focused on the aviation/aerospace industry,” he added. “Our graduates are prized the world over.”