American Airlines is launching a training program that will
place pilots with its wholly owned regional carriers Envoy, Piedmont and PSA.
Private lender Discover Student Loans will facilitate the program, which is
called the American Airlines Cadet Academy.
"The lack of financing options has restricted the size
of the pilot pool, leaving some of the most talented people out of the running,"
said Kimball Stone, American's vice president -- flight. "By removing this
roadblock from the student experience, we will attract a diverse group of
professional aviators to American for years to come."
The U.S. faces a pilot shortage that will reach 3,500
commercial pilots by 2020, according to the University of North Dakota's 2016
Pilot Supply Forecast. Regional airlines have been disproportionately impacted
by the shortage.
The Cadet Academy will train participants for up to 18
months at American Airlines' partner flight schools in Dallas, the Fort
Lauderdale area, Memphis or Phoenix. Students will follow what American calls "a
carefully choreographed flight-training track, where you will learn the skills
to become a safe and competent aviator."
Those who finish the program will have the opportunity to
interview at Envoy, Piedmont and PSA. Program applicants need not have
experience in the cockpit.
Participants will have the option of receiving financing
from Discover Student Loans. The company said it would offer loans at
competitive rates, either variable or fixed, that have no fees. Payments can be
deferred for up to three-and-a-half years.
Aspiring U.S. airline pilots who don't get trained via the
military or a college or university flight school must log 1,500 hours of
flight to be eligible to copilot a commercial flight. Getting those hours can cost
$200,000, according to industry experts.
Last year, an FAA advisory committee recommended amending
that rule to allow trainees who go through an airline-run training program to
obtain the required Airline Transport Pilot license with just 500 hours of flight
time. But such a change faces strong political resistance.
American is not the only major U.S. airline that is trying
to generate interest in becoming a commercial pilot.
This fall, United will begin its Career Path Program in
partnership with Metropolitan State University in Denver, creating the first
direct pathway between a university aviation department and a position in the
cockpit of a major U.S. airline.