UI Aviation Director: Local Airports To Suffer From Pilot Shortage
The head of the University of Illinois’ Institute of Aviation says regional airlines could suffer the most from a pilot shortage throughout the industry.
A report in the Wall Street Journal this week says a wave of retirements and increased training rules have prompted airlines to accelerate hiring and cut some service.
Institute of Aviation Interim Director Tom Emanuel says industry growth is another factor. He said more people can afford an airline ticket, and pilot demand in areas like Asia has ‘soared.’
Emanuel says small airports like the U of I’s Willard Airport and Bloomington’s Central Illinois Regional Airport could suffer the most, as those still in the field look to move up quickly.
"(They're a) flight instructor or charter (pilot) for a certain period of time, a pilot gets enough experience to move on to the co-pilot position, one of the regional airlines like American Eagle for example," he said. They would hope after spending X-amount of years with them, they could move to the captain’s seat in the regional jet, and then eventually move up to a larger airline, simply because the larger airlines tend to pay more than the larger airlines do.”
Emanuel said Congress didn't seem to have much expertise when approving new pilot training rules, saying they 'shot from the hip,' and assumed more training is better.
But he said there still seems to be a strong interest locally in learning to fly, although not necessarily pursuing a career as a pilot.
With the U of I's Institute closing, and starting at Champaign's Parkland College in the fall, Emanuel said the program is gradually picking up a number of appliants.
Parkland College Trustees have unanimously approved an agreement to take over the University of Illinois’ Institute of Aviation.
Parkland College may be taking over the University of Illinois’ Institute of Aviation. The school's Board of Trustees will vote on an intergovermental agreement Wednesday.
U of I Trustees voted to end the institute in 2011. There are still students enrolled, but stopped accepting new ones after Trustees cut the program.
Parkland President Tom Ramage says his school would hope to take over operations by the fall of 2014.
He admitted the operation of a flight school connected to Parkland would start smaller than the institute’s largest classes of more than 200 students.
“That’s certainly the top end, given the number of airplanes available, and just the number of hours in a day that those can be scheduled," he said. "Obviously we’d be starting much smaller. There are some 90-ish students in the program today, and we’d be hoping to start around the same number, and grow it up to a reasonable approximation of 200 in a short period of time.”
Ramage says Parkland has been looking at taking over Aviation for about five years, but this proposal has the advantage of a working partner, Riverside Research of the U of I's Research Park.
He said if the program is approved, Parkland would likely subcontract some services from Riverside.
"Aviation is not something Parkland College has a lot of experience with," he said. "But we have partners who do. And that's the difference this time is we have another partner who has experience with not only aviation in general, but perhaps flight schools. That's the difference today, is we have some reasonable chance for creating a program that makes good sense from the student standpoint and the institutional standpoint."
“We are excited that Parkland College is considering continuing this program, so that students throughout this community, including those at Illinois, will have a path into a great career," said U of I Urbana campus Chancellor Phyllis Wise, in a statement.
Ramage says the cost to Parkland to pick up the Institute would be "almost zero."
Parkland College Trustees meet on the campus at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Informal talks continue that may allow Parkland College to take over the University of Illinois' Institute of Aviation in three years.
The U of I's Board of Trustees voted last week to shut it down, once current students complete the program in 2014. The Institute's Interim Director, Tom Emanuel, met Wednesday with Interim Chancellor Robert Easter for what he calls a preliminary conversation.
Emanuel said the next step is for administrators at both schools to meet, and see if Parkland's finances will allow such a transfer. Those meetings likely will not happen until the fall semester starts. But Emanuel said Parkland could offer courses in addition to flight training.
"I do know Parkland has some interest in looking at a broader aviation program that would include maybe some other things, even conceivably, something with aviation mechanics... I just heard that through the grapevine literally," Emanuel said. "But it makes sense. Aviation is the second largest money producer in the state of Illinois after agriculture."
Easter said he holds out hope that flight training would have a future locally beyond 2014.
"Having a quality program locally available for students coming to the University of Illinois with an interest in learning flying skills," he said. "Proceeding to certification (with Parkland) would be a real plus. And so our interest is if there's a way we can facilitate that, as I told the Board (of Trustees) last week, we will do that."
Easter called last Thursday's decision to close the Institute one of the tougher days in his role of administrator, but said it was the right one to allow for the growth of other programs on the Urbana campus. Administrators say closing Aviation would save $750,000 in a program suffering from declining enrollment.
Emanuel said any arrangement with Parkland would have to be done on smaller scale, since Parkland is a two-year institution and doesn't have the authority to offer a baccalaureate degree. And Emanuel said the Institute's aircraft belong to the U of I's Board of Trustees, and cannot be transferred to a community college. But Emanuel said he believes some arrangement could be made for Parkland to use the planes if everything else falls into place.
The University of Illinois will end its Institute of Aviation.
University of Illinois Interim Chancellor Robert Easter confirms the university's Board of Trustees will vote next week during a meeting in Chicago to close its Institute of Aviation.
A panel of administrators and faculty made the recommendation in February as part of a series of cost-cutting measures known as "Stewarding Excellence." But members of the Institute's Alumni Advisory Board say the trustees are ignoring a vote by the U of I's Faculty Senate to keep the facility open. Even though the proposal to close the Institute failed by three votes, Easter calls that tally 'essentially a tie".
"We have other bodies, the Stewarding Excellence process, the Faculty Committee on courses and curriculum, they have supported the decision," he said. "We had to arrive at some decision, so we decided to move it forward."
Easter notes that the Institute's degree program was only established in the late 90's, while the U of I has been teaching people to fly since the 1940's. Easter said the U of I still wants to find a way to offer pilot training, and it is working with a local community college to provide those courses. He would not say whether that school is Parkland College. Easter also said the closure date for Aviation would be 'several years' away.
"We have a very real obligation and commitment to continue to operate the educational program until the students have had a reasonable opportunity to complete their degrees." he said.
Karen Koenig with the Institute's alumni panel said there has been an effort to merge the Institute with another unnamed college. But Easter said any progress at a meeting between the two parties scheduled for Wednesday will likely be too late to change the outcome of the Board of Trustees vote next week.
Koenig said the powers that be are ignoring the actions of others, and not giving Aviation enough time to respond, since the Institute's alumni panel only learned of administrators' plans on Tuesday.
"The original proposal made by (Easter) to close the institute is the one being sent to the trustees, and that totally circumnavigates the votes that were made by the University Senate, the Student Senate, the Faculty-Student Senate, and the Educational Policy Committee," Koenig said. "Those are not being considered."
Dana Dann-Messier is President of Koening's advisory group. He says the university's efforts to shut down aviation started in 2005, when instructor and director positions started becoming vacant and weren't refilled. Dann-Messier says those actions are hurting the business.
"It's apocolyptic," he said. "Those are the words the industry is using for the pilot shortage on the horizon. And for the administration to be engaging in these kinds of games when the future of air transportation is at stake, and we can be a leader in that future, it's mind boggling. That's all I can say."
Staff and alumni from the Institute of Aviation plan to rally Thursday morning before the Board of Trustees meeting.