It has recently been announced that all new pilot graduates from University of North Dakota aviation school (UND) will be eligible, under new rules, to sit in the first officer seat of the cockpit after 1,000 hours of flying time, from 1,500 hours previously required.
The new ruling will emphasize ‘quality over quantity’ of flight training, according to the UND’s associate chair of aviation, Elizabeth Bjerke as she quoted, ‘A quality program is going to produce quality pilots and that’s who we want flying.’
UND is the first aviation school to receive the exemption from the FAA ruling which came after the fatal crash of a Colgan Airlines flight in 2009 that was deemed to be caused by pilot error. It was then that Congress issued the ruling that all pilots attain an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, which led to the FAA doubling the required flying time before graduates could be hired.
“Historically airlines would hire our graduates at about 700 or 800 hours,” Ms Bjerke said. “They would do very well in training because they had a good solid foundation and still they were trainable by the airlines.”
With researchers from four other colleges, Ms Bjerke looked at the training backgrounds of aviation pilots and forwarded the findings to the FAA when they discovered that pilots with a four-year accredited training program performed better than others from a flight academy, for example.
Worries concerning a potential shortage of pilots prompted the study and there is no doubt that the new ruling will help to boost the workforce, while maintaining critical safety measures in the industry. It is thought that other aviation schools that run the four-year program will now also apply for the authorization for the restricted ATP license from the FAA.
Dean of the UND’s aviation school, Bruce Smith, said, “To be the first designated is a reflection on the long-term reputation of our graduates in the airline industry.” He said that the FAA decision clearly demonstrates the quality of the school’s commercial aviation program.