By Joe Mellenbruch
The Devils Lake Regional Airport has run into a spot of difficulty in recent weeks as a result of the government’s new 1,500 hour flight-hours requirement for pilots in this country.
A public law passed in 2009 raised the minimum number of flight hours a pilot must have before entering the professional ranks, a measure that was taken largely in response to what happened with the Colgan air accident that happened in February, 2009, an incident that saw a plane crash in Clarence Center, N.Y. after experiencing an aerodynamic stall.
Not wanting a repeat of that accident, the government made it more challenging for pilots to put their skills to work, ensuring that all those licensed to fly a plane undertake the necessary amount of practice and training.
While this is an admirable safety measure, the increased requirement has potential to hamper small airports like the one in Devils Lake, whose pilots are often young men and women not far removed from flight school.
Thankfully for Devils Lake, the UND flight program, one of the most respected in the country, has received special authorization from the FAA, allowing UND flight school graduates to be hired by the nation’s airlines with less flight time than required by the new regulation.
North Dakota is now the only college in the country to have such authorization from the FAA. They aren’t the only school to have applied for it, but as of now, they are the only school to which it has been granted.
“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,” Bruce Smith told UND’s national media relations coordinator Juan Miguel Pedraza. Smith is 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.”
Research supports the FAA’s decision to allow graduates from accredited universities to enter the professional realm early, showing that students who attend such schools end up being better pilots in the future. There are many different ways for a pilot to acheive certification, but data indicates that those who come from a dedicated four-year program like UND are often better prepared to fly professionally.