ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - Students in a local aviation program will be on the fast track to take off in the commercial airline industry. It is thanks to a new program, which officially kicked off on Friday, that will help students navigate the skies sooner rather than later.
The purpose of the new partnership is to educate and train future pilots for the commercial aviation field. Students and representatives from both Elizabeth City State University and United Airlines were at the kickoff, during which a ribbon was cut to officiate the program’s start.
Among the attendees included Theresa Claiborne, the first female African American Air Force pilot who is now a captain with United Airlines.
Experts say the program is needed more than ever due to factors including current pilots nearing the retirement age and a recent pilot shortage.
"Once you start flying, working with an airline, every day is different,” Kate Gebo, executive vice president of Human Resources and Labor Relations with United Airlines, said. “If you want something where every day is going to be different and you're going to have to challenge yourself like you've never done before, then aviation is the job for you."
According to ECSU, the flight program costs about half of what a typical aviation school may charge. The lower tuition costs are thanks to NC Promise, a statewide program in North Carolina that offers significantly reduced tuition for in-state and out-of-state students attending any of North Carolina’s three state schools.
Elizabeth City State University is the only state school in North Carolina that offers a major in aviation.
“We want to leverage this partnership to grow our program,” Dr. Kuldeep Rawat. “We want to leverage this partnership to getting our program up to a standard that we'll have airlines calling us to hire our pilots."
ECSU also offers the Reduced-Aeronautical Transport Certificate Program, approved by the FAA, where students can start working commercially with 1,000 flight hours instead of the required 1,500 hours.