Rochester Community and Technical College announced this evening its intention to explore the feasibility of starting an Aviation Pilot Education Program here in Rochester. The announcement was made in front of aviation industry leaders at the Southeastern Minnesota Aviation Celebration hosted by the Southeastern Minnesota General Aviation Action Team and Rochester International Airport (RST).
Recent industry research indicates a critical shortage of trained pilots—and an estimate of 20,000 openings anticipated over the next several years. Airlines are being forced to cancel routes and some are leaving regional airports completely due to their inability to fill pilots’ seats. Travelers are losing transportation options and economies are feeling the pinch.
During the last eight months, RCTC Interim President Mary Davenport, RCTC Dean of Career and Technical Education and Business Partnerships Michelle Pyfferoen, and RCTC Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Greg Mosier, have been working with John Reed, RST Administrator and others, and speaking with universities and colleges who currently offer flight instruction programs. Additionally, many meetings with airport managers and private companies which provide flight instruction in Minnesota and other states have taken place to learn more about this shortage and what it takes to help meet this demand.
The College is excited Rochester International Airport is supporting this effort and is pleased to have them on this journey. Minnesota State University, Mankato has also been an integral component of this effort as an educational partner. RCTC’s associate’s degree in aviation will be designed to transfer to Minnesota State Mankato so students can eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in aviation. The Minnesota State Mankato program is one of less than 40 schools nationwide to be accredited and has partnerships with multiple airlines. The Aviation program at Minnesota State Mankato includes personalized training in the CRJ700 jet simulator on campus and in technologically advanced aircraft; advanced transitional courses that allow for an easier move into the complex airline environment; and FAR Part 141 flight training for Private, Instrument, and Commercial pilot ratings. This, in turn, allows graduates to be hired at the airlines at 1000 flight hours with the Restricted ATP (as opposed to the normal 1500 flight hours).
RCTC is also looking for community and industry partners to act in an advisory capacity to help the College and its partners determine the best path forward to create and implement a robust aviation program to meet this tremendous industry demand with an initial goal of classes starting fall 2019.
Together, it’s believed, RCTC, its partners, and members of Rochester’s aviation sector can help solve this problem.