UND first to certify future airline pilots under new FAA rule

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John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences


Effective immediately, graduates from the University of North Dakota John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences (UND Aerospace) will be able to be hired by the nation's airlines with less flight time than required by a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rule. The school is the first in the nation to receive this special authorization as part of a process outlined in a new FAA rule.

"The approval by the FAA for our graduates to be eligible for an ATP at a 1,000 hours--instead of 1,500--is a clear statement about the quality of our commercial aviation program," said Bruce Smith, dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. "To be the first designated is a reflection on the long-term reputation of our graduates in the airline industry."

There have been several recent changes to the laws which regulate the amount of experience and level of certification required of the nation's airline pilots.

In response to the Colgan Airlines accident in 2009, Congress passed a public law which stipulated that all airline pilots must hold an advanced pilot license known as an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. Since that time, the FAA has been busy adopting new rules and regulations describing exactly how this certificate can be obtained.

In July, the FAA adopted a final rule which allows universities to apply for a flight time reduction for graduates of their programs so long as those graduates completed rigorous academic training. This training has to be approved on a case-by-case basis, and only graduates who have completed specified courses are eligible to be hired with reduced flight time.

"In determining the final rule, the FAA utilized numerous research studies, as well as public comments to establish a process in which to authorize academic coursework," said Beth Bjerke, associate chair of aviation at UND Aerosapce and a researcher whose published work was used by the FAA in arriving at its final rule.

Bjerke, who with several colleagues in aviation education analyzed pilot background and training records at more than one dozen regional airlines, found that four-year accredited academic aviation programs such as UND's produced pilots that have demonstrated superior performance long term. This research helped establish the quality-over-quantity argument in the debate over required flight hours.

"Congress intended the law, and the FAA sees this new rule, as an important way to increase safety, while also recognizing the value of a four-year aviation degree," Bjerke said. "We are delighted that the FAA has recognized our program as providing a level of training that meets the highest standards."