A partnership takes flight

By Leslie Tennant

Two colleges join forces to respond to a pilot shortage.

Pennsylvania’s Community College of Beaver County (CCBC) and Butler County Community College (BC3) are partnering to address the shortage of commercial pilots. This fall, they’ll establish an aviation academy for Butler County high school juniors and seniors. The academy is intended to provide a pathway into professional pilot, air traffic control and unmanned aerial vehicle careers.

CCBC and BC3 will work with flight trainer High Flight Academy, which operates from the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport in Butler and in March received its Federal Aviation Administration certification as a Part 141 Flight School. The certification enables High Flight to instruct and prepare aviation academy students for their private pilot certificate and instrument flight rating.

“Without the 141, we could not become a partner with CCBC or BC3,” said Fabio Ruberto, High Flight’s director of operations,

The CCBC Aviation Academy is the only program in the United States to offer to high school students the opportunity to explore careers in professional pilot, air traffic control and unmanned aerial vehicles such as drones, according to CCBC.

CCBC instructors will teach ground-school subjects such as introduction to aviation, flight theory and aircraft systems in the four-semester, 28-credit program to be held at High Flight and available to students who have a minimum grade-point average of 2.5.

BC3 instructors will teach English composition and statistics in the aviation academy, which students will attend for 1 hour and 40 minutes five days per week.

Airlines: Pilot shortage expected

Students who complete the program can apply the 28 credits toward CCBC’s School of Aviation Sciences, which offers associate degrees in air traffic control, aerospace management, unmanned aerial vehicle and in professional pilot – a career that may experience a shortage in the next two decades.

“Right now there is a tremendous worldwide shortage of commercial pilots,” Ruberto said.

Boeing’s 2018 Pilot & Technician Outlook forecasts that 790,000 new commercial and business pilots will be needed in the next 20 years, according to Boeing.com. Airbus predicted the need to be 450,000 pilots, according to a Forbes.com report in July.

The aviation academy may help to address that need, CCBC President Roger W. Davis said.

“CCBC has a goal to continue to expand and grow its nationally recognized School of Aviation Sciences and partnering with our colleagues in Butler County will only help us accomplish that goal,” Davis said. “The CCBC Aviation Academy at High Flight in partnership with BC3 will provide Western Pennsylvania’s high school students with high-impact educational experiences that prepare them for successful careers in aviation.

“We believe together we are making the aviation professions more visible, accessible and obtainable to a broader range of young people than ever before.”

BC3 President Nick Neupauer calls the alliance a “win-win, in so many ways.

“First, it brings together two of Pennsylvania’s top community colleges,” Neupauer said. “Second, this combined effort addresses a high-priority occupational need in our region, state and country as a whole – aviation. Finally, the collaboration builds on a larger Butler County strategy – to enhance the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport. We are excited about the future of this program.”

There’s more to the story! Read more about the partnership here.

Leslie Tennant

is executive director of marketing, community relations and advancement at Community College of Beaver County in Pennsylvania.