DOT Starts Forces to Flyers to Ease Pilot Shortage

"In order for America to continue to be a world leader in aviation, we must search for ways to address our country's pilot shortage, invest in our nation's workforce, and ensure that our veterans have the support they need as they transition to the next phase of their careers," Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao recently announced Forces to Flyers, a new research initiative that will encourage military veterans who are interested in becoming commercial pilots. Spearheaded by DOT and its Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, the three-year program will examine strategies for employing military veterans as pilots in order to address the nation's current and future pilot shortage.

"There is a commercial pilot shortage due to the increased demand for air travel," she said. "The Forces to Flyers research initiative is a new strategy to address the pilot shortage by offering interested military veterans a path to becoming commercial pilots."

DOT cited Boeing's 2016 Pilot Outlook, North America, as saying the industry needs to hire 112,000 pilots by 2035 in order to meet demand. "In order for America to continue to be a world leader in aviation, we must search for ways to address our country's pilot shortage, invest in our nation's workforce, and ensure that our veterans have the support they need as they transition to the next phase of their careers," Chao continued.

U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who chairs the Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, applauded the move. "As just about anyone who comes from a small or rural community can tell you, maintaining adequate air service has been a major challenge for many years and has recently been exacerbated by the pilot shortage facing the airline industry and the U.S. military. Forces to Flyers is an innovative initiative for helping veterans who aspire to fly and a step toward helping rural communities threatened by the loss of safe passenger air service. I applaud Secretary Chao and the Department of Transportation for launching this initiative, including the planned research into pathways for entering the pilot workforce, as recent rules have significantly increased the cost and entry requirements for this critical career," he said.

Researchers working in the program will study pathways for entering the pilot workforce, identify barriers to training and employment, and design and implement an initiative that can provide flight training to people interested in becoming commercial pilots. And a major priority of the initiative will be preserving and increasing air service to rural and small communities. Details on how to become involved in the Forces to Flyers research initiative will be made available at a future date.

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