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U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Forces to Flyers Research Initiative

Thursday, November 16, 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao today announced the creation of Forces to Flyers, a new research initiative aimed at supporting military veterans who are interested in becoming commercial pilots.

“There is a commercial pilot shortage due to the increased demand for air travel,” Secretary Chao 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."

Led by the U.S. Department of Transportation and its Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, the research initiative will examine strategies for employing our military veterans as pilots in order to address the pilot shortage in the country. According to the Boeing 2016 Pilot Outlook, North America will need to hire of 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,” Secretary Chao added.

“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,” U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD) said.

“I applaud Secretary Chao for moving the conversation forward on pilot training and the pilot shortage facing both the commercial and military aviation communities.  It’s a serious problem that is only going to get worse if nothing is done.  Forces to Flyers is an excellent example of the Administration’s continued commitment to helping veterans returning home while simultaneously getting more pilots in the pipeline. As a pilot and an ATP, I know firsthand how rewarding flying is and I am confident our nation’s heroes would make a positive contribution to the profession,” said Congressman Sam Graves (MO-6).

During the three year initiative, researchers will also 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 individuals interested in becoming commercial pilots.

A major priority of the research initiative will be preserving and increasing air service to rural and small communities, by assisting and encouraging new pilots to enter the career pipeline.

The Department of Transportation anticipates that participants in the initiative will receive flight training extending from the first flight lesson through the training necessary to become a  Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) or Certified Flight Instructor-Instrument (CFI-I). Once a participant receives their CFI or CFI-I, they will have the ability to gain employment as a flight instructor while obtaining the flight hours needed to qualify for an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP) and become an airline pilot.

Details regarding how to become involved in the Forces to Flyers research initiative will be made available at a future date. Sign up here to receive updates regarding the Forces to Flyers research initiative.

Click here to see what others are saying about the Forces to Flyers Reseach Initiative.