The Liberty Gazette
May 22, 2012Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: It’s been nearly five years since the FAA extended the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from 60 to 65. Now the thousands of airline pilots who were close to retirement then will be leaving the cockpits of major and regional airlines, both passenger and cargo, creating a surge in the need for new pilots. Regional airlines are already seeing a diminished pool of qualified applicants, and the competition has some companies offering significant signing bonuses.
Many newly retired pilots will go on to fly for corporations, charter services, or on-demand cargo companies. Some will teach flying, some will retire to their own hangar and maybe a low-and-slow Piper Cub, or build an airplane of their own – maybe an RV. I can’t imagine any pilot walking out of the cockpit and the industry altogether, but that’s just me. Occasionally, I suppose it happens.
If you or someone you know is interested in flying for an airline there are some great schools I’d highly recommend: Purdue University (Indiana), Embry-Riddle (Arizona and Florida), and the University of North Dakota are some of the top schools offering professional pilot degrees, Bachelors and Masters. Embry-Riddle also offers doctoral Degrees in Aviation and in Engineering Physics. In the Great State of Texas we have a couple of Embry-Riddle campuses without the flight training part, so anyone interested in one of many other areas of the aviation industry are well served. Often called the "Harvard of Aviation Schools" Embry-Riddle has plans to open a third flight training campus and Houston’s Ellington Field is one of two locations being considered.
Linda: There’s also Texas State Technical College (TSTC) in Waco, and they just cut the ribbon May 3 on a new 82,000-square-foot, multi-million dollar facility, the Col. James T. Connelly Aerospace Center.
TSTC has long had a strong aviation program, offering five different tracks: aviation maintenance (airframe and powerplant mechanics), aircraft pilot training, avionics, aircraft dispatch, and air traffic control. They now have state-of-the-art classrooms, labs and flight simulators. The building also includes a public airport terminal adjacent to the TSTC Waco Airport.
Dr. Elton Stuckley, President of TSTC envisions the new Aerospace Center as "a hub of the TSTC Airport, not only for our students, but also for the general aviation and business aviation communities of Texas." These new digs give them enough space to offer proficiency and recurrency training for general aviation pilots and also for aviation professionals. They offer continuing education and the FAA-sanctioned aviation safety training courses. For the population at large their outreach in educational and community conferences impact far beyond the airport property lines, making the airport a very active community member with a significant presence. Historical displays in the new building honor the rich history of the airport and its importance to the local community, the nation, and the world.
The school’s industry partners – those who will employ graduates – will benefit from all this great stuff, meaning eventually we all benefit, because as you know if you read this column fairly regularly, airports are a vital community asset which benefit people who don’t fly.
With innovations in flight training and one of the most modern training facilities in the country TSTC is preparing to meet the pilot shortage head-on.