Flight schools gear up for pilot shortage: plenty of options for Alaskans who want to learn to fly.

Author:Stapleton, Rob

At a time when more flight schools are needed to fill the left-hand seat of airline aircraft and to fly for Alaska commercial part 135 Carriers, flight schools are having a difficult time nationally. A Boeing report indicates that in the next twenty years the industry will need to fill 1.2 million aviation job positions: 600,000 pilots and 600,000 support jobs, such as mechanics, air traffic, and support positions. Owners of flight schools are citing a lack of competent flight instructors with flight time in Alaska as their biggest challenge.

UAA Aviation

Located at the Merrill Field campus in Anchorage, the UAA Aviation Division is taking the pilot shortage seriously. The program's new director, Ralph Gibbs, promises to make UAA a top contender for airlines to recruit its graduates and for students to receive industry desirable training, ratings, and degrees in aviation. "In a word, UAA Aviation is working to increase the availability of aviation expertise to the aviation industry's projected worldwide shortfall," said Gibbs to the Alaska Air Carriers Association. Gibbs outlined a program to add four new degrees that will fill 285 seats, namely Aviation Maintenance, Air Traffic Control, Administration/Management, and pilot programs.

Gibbs, a former US Marine, wants to merge military, general aviation, and airline training practices to provide an increased training structure. This will be done by using a Jeppesen-like training template for private, instrument, commercial, multi-engine land, and certified flight instructor training and merge it with the Naval Aviation Training Command syllabus format.

Gibbs pointed out the need for a twin-engine aircraft for the program. "This is a choke point in the UAA pilot training program... Do we have anyone out there that would like to donate a Piper Navajo to the program?" Gibbs asked.

Gibbs told the Alaska Air Carriers Association that modifying the university's aviation program will include mid-course adjustments to thwart student complacency.

"The program will also include rewards, and one will be called the 'Flying Sea Wolf Award' for excellence of airmanship. We will also offer a 1,000-hour certificate using a special Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Restricted 1,000 hour ATP program," Gibbs says. This will be offered to graduates of the Bachelor of Science, Aviation Technology, Professional Piloting program. This program is only offered under the UAA FAA Part 141 Certificate.


ProFlite LLC of Fairbanks is the largest flight school in the state and is located in the Interior where aviation took off in 1913. With ten aircraft and seventy students on a regular basis, Mike Morgan and wife Kristi Palmer started the school in 2012. ProFlite is FAA...

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