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FAA approves reduced flight hours for aviation graduates

Liberty aeronautics students practice in a flight simulator.
Students of Liberty University School of Aeronautics have access to a number of flight simulators where they can practice flying in various scenarios, such as bad weather.

Liberty University School of Aeronautics has received authority from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to certify graduates for the reduced flight hour Airline Transport Pilot rating.

Under the new agreement, qualified graduates now need 1,000 flight hours instead of the more restrictive 1,500 flight hours to be hired as a first officer with a commercial airline. Liberty is the seventh university in the country to receive this authorization.

Dave Young, dean of the School of Aeronautics, said receiving this designation is significant for the school in that it allows graduates who are pursuing an airline pilot career to realize their dream much sooner.

“This new agreement helps our graduates get a job with the regional airlines more quickly than they could have in the past and more rapidly than other potential candidates,” he said. “It is also recognition from the FAA that we have an excellent and solid program, or we would not have gotten the waiver of hours.”

Walt Reichard, professor in the School of Aeronautics, said that within the next 15 years, there will be a need for 60,000 commercial airline pilots within the U.S. alone.

“With that kind of demand the airlines are anxious to get all the qualified graduates they can,” he said. “Reducing this program to the 1,000-hour requirement means the students will spend less time in training and school and will be eligible to fly for the airlines two years sooner.”

A Liberty aeronautics student and instructor prepare to takeoff.
A Liberty aeronautics student and instructor prepare to take off.

In May, Liberty signed an agreement with American Eagle Airlines, Inc. (AEA) that gives graduates more opportunities to launch their careers in the commercial airline industry. The company will hire graduates — those who meet requirements ranging from grade-point average in aviation courses to accumulated flight time — for its Pilot Pipeline Program. AEA will pay graduates to serve as certified flight instructors for the School of Aeronautics while accruing their flight time. Participants will also receive boarding pass privileges and health benefits from AEA, as well as a $10,000 scholarship upon completion of the program.

Liberty signed a similar agreement with ExpressJet last year and is working on comparable opportunities with other airlines.

American Eagle and ExpressJet are the two largest regional airline systems in the world, with nearly 4,000 daily flights to more than 200 airports throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

  • The Liberty University School of Aeronautics has grown from four students to more than 700 in the last 10 years and is currently the largest faith-based university aviation program in the country. The school offers a variety of online and residential programs, including a bachelor’s degree with concentrations in military aviation, missionary aviation, commercial/corporate aviation, and unmanned aerial systems (UAS), as well as flight attendant training and aircraft mechanic certifications.