March 21, 2014

Aviation program earns key FAA certificate

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s aviation flight and aviation management programs recently received Federal Aviation Administration certification that reduces the required flight time for graduates interested in becoming airline pilots. 

Based on SIU’s curriculum and training requirements, the FAA on March 5 lowered the number of flight hours that SIU aviation students need to qualify for a restricted air transport pilot certificate, or R-ATP.  The reduction is from 1,500 to 1,250 flight hours for aviation flight students and to 1,000 flight hours for students in the combined aviation flight and aviation management programs.  The result is a significant savings in both time and money for graduates headed to a flight career with an airline. 

SIU is among a group of about 40 universities in the nation to receive the FAA certification, David A. NewMyer, department chair, said.  Until last year, an airline could hire a co-pilot or first officer with as few as 250 flight hours. The FAA’s revision to 1,500 flight hours was significant for future pilots wanting to fly for the airlines, NewMyer said.  The certificate is required for individuals wanting to fly as co-pilots for major air carriers like United, Southwest, American and Delta, along with regional airlines such as American Eagle, SkyWest, ExpressJet, Republic and TranStates. 

“This certification gives our students added flexibility as they pursue their careers after graduation and is a strong endorsement of the training provided by the faculty and staff in our aviation program,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said. 

SIU met two primary requirements to gain the reduction.  The first was offering FAA-approved “Pilot School” flight training coursework.  The program also has key curriculum content and aviation-focused courses in areas including aviation safety, aviation weather, aviation law and aviation regulations, air traffic control and aircraft systems, NewMyer said. 

Depending upon the type of aviation company a person is flying for, NewMyer said it can take from six to 18 months to build 500 hours of flight experience.  Flight experience can come in many forms, such as being a flight instructor for other students, or flying for a small charter service or a smaller regional airline operation that uses smaller aircraft, such as Cape Air. 

SIU is now one of two FAA-authorized four-year institutions in Illinois. With the University of Illinois closing its flight program in August, SIU Carbondale will be the only four-year institution in Illinois with the R-ATP authorization, NewMyer said. SIU submitted its application to qualify for the flight time reduction in September. 

“This approval comes at a time when the airline industry is expanding its hiring overall, including its pilot hiring,” NewMyer said.  “This approval is timely because it positions SIU well to help meet this hiring boom.” 

NewMyer said that admissions applications to SIU for both programs are up nearly 10 percent over last year.