Liberty's Aeronautics School Attempts To Fill Void In National Pilot Shortage

Campbell Co., VA - Research shows the number of pilots in the United States, and around the world is dramatically declining. The number of flights and the number of planes though, continues to be sky high.

But locally, the Liberty University School of Aeronautics hopes to do its part to fill the void.

The reasons for a pilot shortage are extensive; mandatory retirement ages of 65, and a high cost of education with a low initial pay check, are a few.

Liberty University though says they're fixing the problem, one pilot at a time.

"Liberty University is still very oriented toward producing pilots to fill the seats that are going to be vacant in the commercial airlines" said Dave Young, the Dean of LU's Aeronautics School.

The LU School of Aeronautics is taking off. Young has high hopes his graduates will be this nation's new wave of airline pilots.

"The main source of pilots is going to come out of universities like Liberty University. We have been growing at approximately 30% per year for the last several years" he said.

And good thing; major airlines, including US Air and United, are announcing pilot shortages.

The mandatory retirement age of 65, coming up for an entire generation of pilots. A study from the University of North Dakota showed that within 20 years, there is a projected shortfall of 35,000.

"As this wave continues to increase, we're going to want people to get into the industry as quickly and as efficiently as they can" said Bob Hudson.

Hudson is a 20 year airline pilot, and is now Associate Dean of LU's Aeronautics School. With the cost of a pilot's education, coupled with low initial pay, he acknowledges a pilot's payoff isn't immediate.

He tries to drive home the same message to all his students, "A pilot getting into this industry, has got to enjoy the journey to get there. The people in this industry, again, love what they do, so they're going to try to do it as long as they possibly can" he said.

"It's less glamorous, but it's fun" said Megan Grupp.

Now, hundreds of students like Grupp, a Liberty University senior, are hoping come May, they'll be a part of the solution to solve the shortage in the skies.

"I absolutely love what I do. I don't know that it's LU's goal to fill the airline need as it is to just put out good quality pilots. I think that's more their goal, but as a byproduct of that, that will fill the need in the industry" she said.

Because of hiring agreements with flight companies, each LU student is guaranteed a job upon graduation. Over the last decade the school has grown into one of two largest faith based aviation schools in the country.