UND Receives $2.5 Million From FAA to Support Veteran Flight Students

The program will help veterans pay for flight lessons and complement existing GI Bill benefits.

The Vets 2 Wings program (V2W) was announced to UND aviation students on Oct. 4, in a visit by FAA administrators. [Courtesy: UND]

The FAA has awarded the University of North Dakota $2.5 million to develop a new pilot training program for veterans.

The Vets 2 Wing (V2W) program will provide a pathway for former military personnel to become commercial airline pilots—and help alleviate the current and projected global pilot shortage. Moreover, the program will complement the GI Bill’s flight training provision, which funds tuition and a portion of training costs through UND's Part-141 four-year degree.

To qualify for funding assistance for advanced training, veterans must have their private pilot certificate, UND said. Currently, the program has about 100 veteran flight students enrolled, and aims to recruit another 40 students from the wider university, as well as 15 new students.

Severe Pilot Shortage

Earlier in the week, FAA administrators joined North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven at UND's John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, where they spoke to veterans and announced the award. Sen. Hoeven, a member of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Committee, played a key role in securing the funding from the FAA to support the program.

"Our nation is facing a severe pilot shortage," Hoeven said. He added, "We need a new generation of qualified pilots to help ensure continued access to safe and reliable air service, which is vital to our economy and quality of life."

A Second Wind

The funding, earned through military service, will open the door to an in-demand career, UND president Andrew Armacost said.

Paired with GI Bill funding, the program provides a “second wind” to ensure veteran flight students complete training, Robert Kraus, dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, added.

"I hope we can use this program well to improve services for all our veteran students," said Elizabeth Bjerke, associate dean of the aerospace school, who also participated in the FLYING mental health roundtable earlier this year.

UND administrators, including former military members, were selected to oversee the program. 

"It was great to be able to put together the right administrative research team to work with these students," Bjerke said. "They also are going to be serving as mentors."

This news follows another major award geared to veteran flight students at the university. In January $300,000 in scholarships awarded to 25 veterans by the Ray Foundation to start their aviation career at UND, beginning with training toward a private pilot certificate.

Michael Wildes holds a master’s degree in Logistics & Supply Chain Management, and a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science, both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Previously, he worked at the university’s flight department as a Flight Check Airman, Assistant Training Manager, and Quality Assurance Mentor. He holds MEI, CFI & CFII ratings. Follow Michael on Twitter @Captainwildes.

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