DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — The U.S. is currently facing a pilot shortage as the Federal Aviation Association works to find solutions. But, getting a degree from Sinclair Community College allows future pilots to reduce training hours, according to an FAA rule. 

Sinclair’s Aviation Technology Department Chair Clay Pittman says the pandemic brought the airline industry to an abrupt stop impacting pilots working towards their flight hours. He says this put the entire industry behind for several years.

“It was a precipitous drop in air travel resulting from the pandemic that was a shock to the system,” said Pittman. “They stopped hiring, they stopped training and that just made it worse.”

Pittman served as a pilot in the Air Force for 33 years. He says the airline industry was already struggling before the pandemic to train pilots.

“It’s a challenge to address it because it takes many years to train a pilot and get all the required FAA ratings they need and the flight hours they need to be eligible to be hired by an airline,” said Pittman.

The supply of pilots is being challenged by multiple factors, including a wave of early retirements and the rigorous training pilots must pass. However, Sinclair aviation students are one step ahead.

“The FAA has a rule if you’re a graduate of an approved program, which Sinclair is one, they reduce those hours, their hours for bachelor’s graduates are reduced from 1,500 hours of flying time to 1,000 hours of flying time, so that’s a huge advantage of getting a degree is that it speeds up your process of getting in an airline cockpit,” said Pittman.

A possible solution mentioned would be convincing the FAA to raise the retirement age higher than 65-years-old, but the change may have a limited impact, many pilots may still choose to retire then.