As the pilot shortage becomes an increasing reality with a large percentage of the professional pilot population reaching retirement age, the country is begging for fast-track programs for budding professional pilots. A new program at the International Aero Academy in Lakeland, Florida, promises a lower total cost to achieve the degree program and flight hours required to become a professional pilot.
Two former airline executives conceived the program: IAA’s president and CEO Steven Markoff, and non-executive chairman Gerald Gitner. Markoff said the net cost for the four-year degree including all of the pilot’s certificates and about 1,000 hours to achieve the restricted ATP certificate now required to work as an airline pilot would be less than $75,000, significantly lower than already established degree programs.
That approximate price tag includes the income students would make as flight instructors at the Part 141 flight school. The concept is for the students to breeze through all of the flight ratings, from zero to CFI, in about eight months. Once completed, the students start earning money while building time and completing the academic requirements. Markoff said ambitious students could complete the four-year degree and build the 1,000 hours for the R-ATP in about three years. The degree component comes from the International School of Aerospace and Aviation, which is affiliated with the Central Christian College of Kansas. Students enrolling now can begin working on a two-year associate’s degree. In approximately three months, the four-year degree program will be available and students will be able to transition to it, Markoff said.
Whether these promises are achievable remains to be seen. But Markoff said the training is highly standardized, similar to the airline environment.
Currently IAA uses a mixed fleet of Cessna 172s, a 172RG, a Piper Arrow and a Piper Seneca. But the school has signed a contract with Tecnam for six P2008 LSAs. Markoff said IAA spent a year evaluating a variety of airplanes before selecting the P2008 based on factors such as capital cost, projected maintenance cost, safety, reliability and customer acceptance. Markoff also said the Garmin G3X system in the P2008 provides the ability to quickly switch from a PFD to a round-gauge display on the same screen. Markoff believes it is important to start training with the traditional six-pack rather than glass as there are still many professional aircraft operating with traditional instruments. IAA will also use Elite AATD simulators for its training.