United Airlines and Metro State University offer a path to the cockpit, but is it enough to prime the pilot pump?

MSU and UA
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Hoping to head off pilot shortage, United Airlines and Metro State aviation program launch unique partnership

Pilot Shortage needs priming of pump

Metropolitan State and United offer PATH

1,500 hours requirement incurs HIGH COSTS

MSU and UA agree

The pilot shortage has bedeviled the airline industry ever since August1, 2010, when the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Act was signed and then the FAA issued an ANPRM on February 8, 2010 and then promulgated a final NPRM on February 29, 2012 implementing the Congressionally mandated 1,500 hour restriction. That topic has attracted considerable coverage, including creative initiatives to attract and retain cockpit professionals. Attention has been devoted to airline/college partnerships to increase the available pool of pilots.

Pilot options and costs

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Decision to Resurrect University’s Pilot Training Degree will benefit from recent FAA Qualification Regulation July 17, 2013

Aviation Pilot Shortage? Marketplace responds! September 29, 2015

Shortage of Pilots & Mechanics needs an immediate, aggressive & comprehensive response by academia, industry & the FAA January 5, 2016

Florida Institute of Technology & other aviation universities as sources of future aviation professionals May 23, 2017

Three different, well-designed approaches to attracting future aviators August 3, 2017

Republic Airlines relationships with Schools- a Catalyst for Pilot Supply? November 30, 2017

MSUClearly, there is a lot of enthusiasm for any proposal to find people to occupy the front of airplanes. Thus, it is hard to express disappointment with the United Airlines UA pilot training centerand Metropolitan State University new pilot track program.  The initiative is great, but the details are not well designed.

The requirements for an MSU student to participate are defined here:

  1. must be full-time Metro students
  2. with at least two semesters in the aviation and aerospace science school’s pilot officer program.
  3. remain in school full time with at least a 3.0 grade-point average through graduation.
  4. must have a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating.

Providing a student with a defined (not guaranteed) career path is an enticing inducement. However, the 4th point on the UA requirement list, commercial license and IFR rating has been cited by many as the major deterrent to students considering a commercial airline career. The national average for this education has been estimated to be $15,000. That’s beyond the means of many who might consider this career.

pilot REP-chart


The real problem is not really highlighted by the UA/MSU program- the 1,500 hour prerequisite, 14 CFR §§ 61.160 and 121.436. Before a candidate can meet these standards for a co-pilot (SIC), he/she must have logged 1,500 hours flying. According to ALPA, the cost of buying that time in aircraft is between $150,000 and $200,000. [N.B. the union asserts that the “shortfall” is attributable to the low salaries for commercial pilots.]

MSU intro

The problem is difficult and requires solutions, but unless there is more to this UA/MSU program, it is not likely to attract the number of candidates needed.

empty cockpit





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