The recently reported pilot shortage has left the aviation industry scrambling to fill cockpit seats to meet global air travel demand. Per aviation experts, this shortage has been a long time coming and could take years to fix. For aspiring pilots, however, there could be a silver lining―more job availability and higher salaries.

What’s causing the pilot shortage?

Recent reports state that the government-mandated requirement to increase flight hours for first officers from 250 to 1,500 hours has put a strain on the flow of qualified pilots who can secure jobs in the field. Other significant factors contributing to the shortage include the increasing number of aging pilots reaching retirement age, higher training fees to meet the FAA flight hour requirement and global economic expansion.

How will the shortage affect the industry and passengers?

Fewer pilots in the air means more passengers on the ground. Service to smaller cities will be reduced since those shorter routes use smaller planes, which will thus hold less passengers but still require two pilots in the cockpit. This reduced service to less dense cities may put commuters back behind their wheels and driving to their destinations.

The US Air Force has seen a significant decrease in their pilot pool, with more than 500 pilots leaving the force over the past five years while more pilot jobs are being added. The Air Force expects it may take five to 10 years to fill the gap, due mostly to the time it takes to complete fighter pilot training and to reactivate bases.

How will the shortage be addressed?

Increased Pay―Some commercial airlines and their subsidiaries are increasing the salaries for entry-level pilots and even offering incentives such as signing and retention bonuses.

As a measure to retain their pilots―and deter them from taking jobs with commercial airlines for more money―US Air Force officials are turning to Congress to increase the end of service pilot bonuses from $25,000 per year to $48,000-$50,000.

Airport Expansions―Airports such as LaGuardia International Airport in New York are undergoing expansive redevelopment and modernization projects to meet forecasted passenger growth. At LaGuardia, for example, terminal ramp space is being expanded to accommodate the projected use of larger sized planes that hold more passengers.

Peter Russo’s take

With 20 years of service as a pilot in the United States Air Force and 24 years of extensive experience in the airline industry, Dr. Peter Russo, aviation department chair and assistant professor of aviation at Vaughn College, has witnessed vast changes in the industry over the years.

“I believe the safety factor relating to the FAA requirement for more flight time is justified,” Russo said. “It’s a cyclical process. It’s about adjusting the flow from retiring pilots to instructor pilots becoming industry pilots.” He explained how the shortage is more of a delay, since it’s taking aspiring pilots longer to earn their certifications. “The additional flight time should not be considered a burden but another level of safety for everyone on board,” said Russo. “In time, it will all level out.”

What does this mean for Vaughn aviation students?

Vaughn College is seeing a record number of students responding to the pilot shortage. Job availability and increased pay are major motivators for students to pursue a degree in aviation. “It’s an excellent time to become a pilot,” said Dr. Russo. “It’s a great feeling to know there will be a seat waiting for you in a cockpit.”

Today, 3D printing technology is revolutionizing the aviation industry as 3D printed structural components are integrated into aircraft that are flying above and beyond engineers’ wildest dreams. The idea of creating an unmanned aerial system (UAS), commonly know as a drone, from a majority of 3D printed components is no longer just a futuristic possibility, but something that may be seen in the near future.

What is 3D printing?

The process of 3D printing involves creating three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file by laying down layers of material—one on top of the other—until the final object is created. Skilled engineers use computer software programs to design the desired parts and then print them using a 3D printer.

How are 3D printed aircraft changing the industry?

This revolutionary process is an industry game changer as it not only saves time, but virtually eliminates outside manufacturing and reduces labor costs.

Today’s heat-resistant composite materials used in the aerospace industry, including 3D printed components, are enhancing structural properties and increasing fatigue life, making the structures more corrosion-resistant and reducing the weight of the structure, thus allowing for better structural performance.

A significant factor, if not one of the most important, is how these innovative systems can keep man out of harm’s way. The aviation industry uses UAS to take images and collect data in dangerous areas such as war zones and fires. This safety factor is critical in gathering important information while keeping man safe in life-threatening situations.

Engineering and Engineering Technology Degrees

Vaughn College offers a wide range of engineering and engineering technology degrees that can prepare students for an exciting career in aeronautics and set them apart from the competition.

The below programs are just a few of the majors offered at Vaughn that provide students with a rigorous and comprehensive course of study to enable them to become successful in their chosen fields.

3D prototyping innovation center

Last month, the engineering and technology department at Vaughn launched their 3D prototyping innovation center, which was equipped with 15 3D printers and two 3D scanners. This space offers students a hands-on opportunity to bring their classroom knowledge to life by applying the concepts they learned and then turn them into physical objects.

“Our 3D prototyping innovation center is just another way we are placing advanced technology at our students’ fingertips and challenging them to be the best they can be,” said Dr. Hossein Rahemi, engineering and technology department chair.

Join the club

Vaughn students and faculty agree that there’s no better way to stay ahead of the curve in this ever-changing world of technology than to join one of their on-campus clubs. Just this past May, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Club coordinated their first International Drone Day event in an effort to raise awareness and celebrate these flying wonders. Among the workshops was an introduction to 3D printing.

Dr. Hossein Rahemi’s thoughts on the future

“My vision is to keep students engaged and give them a platform to have an elevated mind,” said Dr. Rahemi. “The idea of using 3D printed structural components is already proving to be successful. I believe we will see the use of this technology increase dramatically in the future for the manufacturing of aircraft parts.”