Fox Valley Tech and UW-Oshkosh team up to address pilot shortage

Fox Valley Technical College Plane

OSHKOSH - Some aviation experts say there is a looming pilot shortage and that could cause ticket prices to soar for passengers.

Walking around the EAA grounds during AirVenture, you might not realize there's an impending pilot shortage.

"The Government Accountability Office is forecasting about 18,000 pilots are going to be retiring from the major airlines in the next ten years or so," said Fox Valley Technical College's lead instructor of aeronautics pilot training Jared Huss.

Coupled with that, the federal government estimates a demand of 4,500 airline pilots a year, but current training programs can only train about 2,500 to 3,000 new pilots a year.

Some aviation experts told us it's not that fewer people want to be pilots, this is more of a perceived shortage.

"The increase in the FAA numbers up to 1,500 hours has created a longer time frame for the kids that are coming out of school to get into the industry," explained Matthew Cramer with Air Wisconsin Airlines.

The FAA recently increased the amount of time a pilot has to fly before becoming an airline pilot. That's up from 250 hours to, generally, 1,500 hours. The idea is to have pilots fly in less complicated airplanes before moving on to jet airliners.

Experts say another issue is the FAA increased the amount of time airline pilots need to rest between flights, increasing the need for more man power.

Now Fox Valley Technical College has partnered with UW-Oshkosh to get pilots those flying hours sooner. Students complete two years of pilot training at the tech, then transfer those credits to UW-Oshkosh to get a bachelor's degree in another two years.

"The degree can be completed 100% online. So they can go anywhere in the world and start working after our hands-on training, start working, earning money, while furthering their education," Huss explained.

Huss told us Fox Valley Tech also changed its own program regulations, which has enabled the school to produce 16 pilots a year, twice the amount as before. He said it's a drop in the bucket, but maybe the idea will catch on.

"If we all can do something similar to the scale to what we're going here and do our part to help the supply chain," said Huss.

"The more schools that are out there that can get young people interested, not only in aviation, but science in general, it's really important," added Cramer.

Fox Valley Tech currently has a booth at AirVenture. The school is among dozens from around the country working to attract potential pilots this week.

Huss told FOX 11 the tech is operating a waiting list for its pilot training program at the moment.