Amid a pilot shortage, aviation students get a shorter runway to their careers - RED - Relevant. Essential. Denver.
Photo by Mark Woolcott

Amid a pilot shortage, aviation students get a shorter runway to their careers

MSU Denver earns new FAA authorization that allows graduates to apply sooner to jobs with major and regional air carriers.

November 13, 2021

By Doug McPherson

Declan Kreck’s career is going to lift off much earlier than he originally thought, thanks to a new authorization that Metropolitan State University of Denver has earned from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Under the FAA’s Restricted-Airline Transport Pilot authority, Kreck and other Aviation students at MSU Denver can apply for FAA Part 121 pilot jobs – including those with major and regional carriers – after they complete 1,000 hours of flight time instead of 1,500 hours.

“The reduction in the time requirement lets me and pilots like me join the airline world at least two years before we could have otherwise,” said Kreck, a sophomore majoring in Aviation and Aerospace Science who hopes to fly for a major air carrier after he graduates. “Time is everything in flying.”

Declan Kreck in the 7th Street Classroom simulation labs with Professor Dagmar Kress. Photo by Mark Woolcott
Declan Kreck in the 7th Street Classroom simulation labs with Professor Dagmar Kress. Photo by Mark Woolcott

In the wake of the 2009 Colgan Air crash in New York, Congress increased the minimum number of flight training hours from 250 to 1,500 for pilots to fly commercial passenger airliners.

However, the FAA allows graduates of authorized bachelor-degree programs to obtain a Restricted-Airline Transport License with 1,000 hours. 


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“It’s the quality of the ground and flight training curriculum and coursework in those programs, where the FAA, after approval, allows for a reduction of time towards becoming an airline pilot,” said Chad Kendall, an associate professor in MSU Denver’s Department of Aviation and Aerospace Science.

In the airline world, a pilot’s seniority number, or date of hire, impacts the time it takes to upgrade to captain and to move on to a major carrier, Kendall said. He added that it also affects monthly schedules, salary and vacation time. The new authorization starts the clock sooner for MSU students.

“This will in turn mean more student pilots coming to MSU Denver and provide a shortened pathway for those with dreams of being an airline pilot,” Kendall said.

Declan Kreck inspects a plane before flying at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield. Photo by Mark Woolcott
Declan Kreck inspects a plane before flying at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield. Photo by Mark Woolcott

The faster track couldn’t come at a more crucial time, as the airline industry faces a serious pilot shortage that “has come roaring back” following months of steep declines in air travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 13% increase in pilot jobs by 2030, compared with 8% for all other occupations.

Delta Airlines recently announced it plans to hire more than 1,000 pilots by next summer. American Airlines is looking for more than 1,300 pilots by the end of 2022, and United Airlines is hiring 1,500.

And aerospace giant Boeing is projecting that airlines worldwide will need 612,000 new pilots in the next 20 years. Long-term demand for pilots “remains strong,” Boeing said.


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Kendall, who worked with the FAA in Denver and Washington, D.C., for the past 20 months to earn the authorization, said U.S. airlines are hiring “in full force” and offering bonuses across the industry.

He added that MSU Denver is the only four-year, brick-and-mortar location in Colorado to have received R-ATP authorization, which could benefit 105 current MSU Denver Aviation students.

Aviation student Declan Kreck trains on a simulator during a class in MSU Denver
Aviation student Declan Kreck trains on a simulator during a class in MSU Denver's 7th Street Classroom building. Photo by Mark Woolcott

Kreck said that in addition to being pleased with the FAA authorization, he appreciates the access to quality airports that partner with MSU Denver to help students accumulate flying time and gain experience in the cockpit.

MSU Denver has a long history of alliances with Colorado’s aviation hub, which includes companies such as Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., Raytheon Technology, Jeppesen-Boeing, United Airlines, Envoy, Mesa Airlines, Express Jet and others, along with several area airports.

This past summer, MSU Denver announced a pilot-training partnership with McAir Aviation’s flight-training facility at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield. This alliance gives MSU Denver students access to McAir’s fleet of aircraft during their aviation training.

The University is also finalizing agreements with other flight-training providers in Centennial and Colorado Springs. 


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