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Aug 23, 2013 09:28 AM EDT

Pilots Graduating From UND Allowed To Work for Airlines with Less Flight Time

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UND aviation graduates have gotten lucky!

Effective immediately, pilots who have graduated from the University Of North Dakota John D. Odegard School Of Aerospace Sciences (UND Aerospace) will be entitled to work for airlines with reduced flying hours. They have been exempted from a new rule outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration that requires each pilot to have 1,500 hours of flying time to work for the airlines.

The new rule allows UND pilots to fly as first officers as soon as they complete 1,000 working hours. The Grand Forks school is the first in the nation to receive an exemption from FAA.

Bruce Smith, dean of UND's aerospace school, said that the FAA decision reflects the quality of the school's commercial aviation program.

"The approval by the FAA for our graduates to be eligible for an ATP at a 1,000 hours--instead of 1,500--is a clear statement about the quality of our commercial aviation program," said Bruce Smith, dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. "To be the first designated is a reflection on the long-term reputation of our graduates in the airline industry."

In July, the FAA introduced a rule that allows universities to apply for a flight time reduction for their aviation graduates as long as they complete rigorous academic training. The training has to be approved and graduates who have completed specified courses are eligible to be hired with fewer flight hours.

"The ruling emphasizes quality over quantity in flight training.A quality program is going to produce quality pilots and that's who we want flying," said Elizabeth Bjerke, UND's associate chairman of aviation. "Historically airlines would hire our graduates at about 700 or 800 hours. They would do very well in training because they had a good solid foundation and still they were trainable by the airlines."

Bjerke said that numerous regional airlines are worried that the new rule might result in a shortage of pilots. But this exemption can boost their workforce.

As a result, Bjerke is urging other four-year aviation schools to apply for the exemption and receive the special authorization.

Bjerke and several colleagues in aviation education analyzed pilot background and training records at more than dozen regional airlines. They found that pilots at four-year accredited aviation programs performed better than those who were trained elsewhere, such as a flight academy. The study was then forwarded to an FAA rule-making committee.

"Congress intended the law, and the FAA sees this new rule, as an important way to increase safety, while also recognizing the value of a four-year aviation degree," Bjerke said. "We are delighted that the FAA has recognized our program as providing a level of training that meets the highest standards."

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