Aviation Program Flying Even Higher with Recent Curriculum Changes

file photo from airport

Eastern Kentucky University’s Aviation Program is flying even higher today, recently becoming one of the first universities nationally authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to designate graduates as candidates for the 1,000-hour restricted Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.

“The impact on EKU aviation students is a savings in cost and time, equal to 500 flight hours, when compared to non-EKU pilots working toward their 1,500-hour ATP and an airline career,” said Ralph Gibbs, director of EKU’s Aviation Program, the only university-based aviation program in Kentucky.

In response to the Colgan Air crash in Buffalo in 2009 and a subsequent congressional mandate, the FAA now requires that all Part 121 air carrier pilots possess an ATP certificate. No longer will a pilot with only a 250-hour commercial certificate be able fly “right-seat” for regional or major carriers.

Because the change, however, triggered concerns about a pilot shortage, the FAA created three restricted-ATP tiers. All former military-trained pilots can apply for their ATP at 750 total hours; all university professional flight graduates with at least 60 aviation semester hours can apply at 1,000 total hours; and students with an associate or bachelor’s degree and 30-plus aviation hours can apply at 1,250. An additional requirement is that prospective restricted ATP candidates must have earned both their commercial certificate and instrument rating at a part 141 flight school, while all other pilots with a commercial certificate must wait until they reach 1,500 total hours. In all three cases, ATP candidates must have received 50 hours of multi-engine training.

In anticipation of the changes, EKU began in 2011 to revamp its Aviation Program in order to meet the more restrictive requirements. The University modified its professional flight curriculum to include 100 multi-engine hours (20 private and 80 commercial) compared to the 15-50 hours available at other U.S. universities and community colleges. That’s in addition to 50 single-engine private pilot hours, 50 single-engine instrument hours and 50 AATD flight simulation hours.

Gibbs said EKU is now the only university-based aviation program in the U.S. to offer the 1,000-hour path and 100 hours of multi-engine time. “One hundred hours of multi-engine seems to be the magic number to get a commercial job.”

Only two other universities applied for the shorter pathway, Gibbs said, citing well-known programs at the University of North Dakota and Embry-Riddle. “EKU is now on the same national stage as those programs, and they’re not offering the 100 hours of multi-engine flight time.”

Approximately 120 students are enrolled in EKU’s professional flight option; additional students are enrolled in the program’s aerospace management option. The program is housed at EKU’s main campus in Richmond, and all flight training – in 10 single-engine aircraft and three twin-engine planes – is conducted at the Madison County Airport, where EKU is the fixed-base operator.

All aviation majors at EKU can now take their FAA examinations on the Richmond campus.

For more information about the program, visit aviation.eku.edu.

Published on August 27, 2013