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Purdue University is working to address shortages in aviation

In April of next year, the university will unite the aviation community with a three-day symposium. During that time industry leaders will identify key issues the field is facing and come up with a game plan to create a sufficient pool of qualified applicants.

Posted: Sep 17, 2021 12:01 AM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI)-The airline industry has been a hot topic of discussion over the course of the pandemic. From flight cancellations to angry passengers airlines have had a hard time getting off the ground.

"There has been more and more passion and tension about this with crew cancellations that have been in the papers recently than there have been in years," said Mike Suckow a Professor of Practice for the Purdue School of Aviation. 

Now, the industry is faced with a new challenge. A shortage of pilots and maintenance technicians.

"The retirement numbers had been predicted some of the air carriers were suggesting that fifty percent of their seniority roster was going to retire in the next five to ten years," said Suckow.  So those numbers were known."

Several different factors have created the shortage. Suckow says that in aviation hiring cycles go in extreme waves. So while industry leaders were able to predict some retirements, an expansion in the industry also exasperated the number of pilots the industry needs. That on top of the pandemic created the problem the industry is facing today. 

"What's happened now is that in addition to the planned retirements, were the accelerated early retirements because of the early buyouts and the layoffs and COVID type issues," said Suckow. 

Purdue University is one of the only colleges in the country that has state of art flight simulation technology that can prepare future pilots to be in the air. Providing students with next-level technology is what Purdue hopes will get more students interested in the field of Aviation.

"A lot of programs have the primary flight instruction which is the private commercial instrument multi-engine and single-engine airplanes," added Sucko. "We are one of the few schools that has this level of technology that prepared them for the next step in the airline industry."

Giving students access to unique tools isn't all the university is doing. In April of next year, the university will unite the aviation community with a three-day symposium. During that time industry leaders will identify key issues the field is facing and come up with a game plan to create a sufficient pool of qualified applicants.

"If we can work together as a collective in the industry with the manufacturing and the airlines and the government to kind of put together a program that will encourage people to come in and let them know that it's affordable then I think we will be able to solve this issues," said Suckow. 

 Through those partnerships, the University hopes they can encourage more students to take flight.

"There's a shortage in the mechanic's side," said Suckow.  "There are shortages on the flight attendance side, there are shortages in the ground opt and customer service. So, there are opportunities throughout the industry even if you are not one of the pilot groups. They are just one of the groups that are in demand."

According to a recent study done by Boeing in the short term, 30 to 40 thousand pilots will be needed to join the aviation industry in the next five years.

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