Auburn University Doing Its Part to Ease U.S. Pilot Shortage

The U.S. aviation industry is facing a pilot shortage, which has led to flight cancellations and travel frustrations. But hundreds of aviation students at Auburn University hope to take to the skies to ease this problem.

As of February, global airlines were only flying about 47% of pre-COVID-19 capacity, based on the analyst data from OAG and the International Air Transport Association.

But by 2025, after global travel demands expand beyond 2019 levels, experts predict a worldwide shortfall of at least 34,000 commercial pilots.

That’s where Auburn University’s aviation program comes in. By fall, it expects to have 700 undergraduate students enrolled in the program. Just 10 years ago, there were only about 100 students enrolled.

“These are not people who come to college looking to find themselves, they’re not coming here without a focus on where they want to go, they are coming here to become aviators,” James Witte, the director of Auburn University’s School of Aviation, told Alabama News Network.

Its program produces pilots, mechanics and aviation hangar flight service workers.

“Right now from our point of view, at the Auburn airport and at the aviation school, you just couldn’t ask for a better situation,” Zack Farmer, a professional flight major who graduated this year, said.

Partnering with Delta Air Lines Aviation Education, Auburn has the only part 141 school in the state. Its program is more than 80 years old.

It has grown to include 41 Cessna Skyhawks and Piper Seminoles. Auburn plans to acquire additional aircraft to meet students’ needs.

Auburn has an affiliate program with Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. It is in the process of expanding to include Southwest. These airlines will interview Auburn aviation students during their senior year, with the possibility of actually handing them a contract at that time.

“We are producing professional pilots that already made for the industry to go out and contribute immediately,” Bill Hutto, aviation director and instructor, said.

Auburn also has an agreement with Southern Union State Community College. Students can go there for two years to earn air frame and power plant mechanics ratings. After two years with an Associate of Arts degree, they can go to Auburn for two more years, where they will graduate with a degree in Aviation Management, an air frame and power plant mechanics rating and two years’ experience.


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