SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — If you want to be a pilot, you don’t have to travel far to pursue that dream. And a pilot shortage makes now the right time to do it.
Ozarks Technical Community College in partnership with Premier Flight Center will start offering a new aviation associate’s degree in the fall.
An open house will be held Thursday at the old airport at end of Kearney Street from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
It will be the first program of its kind in the area. The closest extensive pilot training available now is about two hours away.
After a few hundred hours in the skies, in a small plane, a pilot can move on to a big airline aircraft.
“Generally, it takes 1,500 hours,” said Noah Boggs, a certified flight instructor at Premier Flight Center.
New pilots will get out of the aviation program with about 300 hours in the air in a small plane and Boggs says the transition to an airline can be done in about a year if you put in the hours with an entry level job.
“Becoming a flight instructor, flying skydivers, private operations,” he said are some examples. “Being a pilot for an agricultural company in the summer for crops and such. That could yield you as much as 120 hours in a month.”
The two-year program, ground and flying classes included, will cost around $50,000.
“It’s quite an investment,” said Matt Hudson, dean of technical education at OTC.
Hudson says is the typical rate for such training.
“The cost of fuel and maintenance and other things that require keeping a plane in the air,” he said.
But Hudson says the program is eligible for financial aid and pell grants. And that the school will work on offering a loan program to help students pay the difference if necessary.
A mandatory FAA retirement age is creating demand for new pilots.
“Once they reach a certain age, that group of people is projected to retire, creating a shortage for the next ten years,” said Hudson.
But Boggs says the new generation will have to do their homework out of class and off the plane.
“You have to take this home with you, you have to visualize things, away from the airplane, or else you will never be able to get up to the learning curve that it takes to become a pilot,” said Boggs.
Hudson says about 60 students have already shown interest in this program, which is set to start in the fall.