School of Aeronautics to train junior Air Force cadets as private pilots
As part of a United States Air Force effort to address the pilot shortage and to increase diversity in the aviation industry, $2.4 million is being invested nationwide to train 120 Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (AFJROTC) cadets as private pilots. Liberty University is among just six partner universities that have been chosen to train selected high school-aged applicants, starting this summer.
“The Air Force officers in charge of this initiative recognized the success our program has had and the values that we espouse as a school,” said Jim Molloy, dean of the School of Aeronautics. “The Air Force is short about 2,000 pilots today, but they also need leaders who will lead selflessly and with integrity and excellence. Knowing us already, they expressed confidence that we would be able to not only provide excellent flight training, but more importantly that we would give the cadets a very good leadership and character development experience.”
Cadets who choose Liberty will study on campus during one of two eight-week sessions, taking four academic courses in the Private Pilot Certificate program. Liberty will prepare them for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) practical evaluation — required to obtain a license — and schedule FAA evaluators to administer both the oral and flight tests. Cadets will also earn 12 university credit hours.
The Air Force was intentional in ensuring that the scholarship included college courses that cadets could apply toward their degree.
“Our hope and desire is that each one will choose Liberty as their school of choice when it comes time to attend a university,” Molloy said. “We know that our impact on each cadet can be life-changing. Just completing a pilot licensure program is life-changing in terms of the grit and discipline that is developed over the course of training.”
The Air Force approved 120 scholarships for this year and is planning to grow the program to 250 scholarships next year and 1,200 annually in the future. Unexpectedly, this year 800 applications were submitted, of which 38 percent were minority students and 34 percent were female.
“I am happy to see the Air Force taking an active role in providing unique opportunities to underrepresented groups,” said Molloy, who has conducted academic research on underrepresented populations in aviation. "We are honored to have been chosen to participate in this far-reaching initiative to make the U.S. Air Force better than it ever has been. Our participation provides an opportunity for our School of Aeronautics education and training professionals to make a significant impact on our military forces and the future of our nation.”