Aspiring UK pilots to be offered degree funding

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Aspiring UK commercial pilots will from September be able to apply for student loans up to £14,500 ($22,500) a year for a three-stage ab-initio pilot training degree.

The course, which can be undertaken at any accredited UK aviation training organisation, will follow the existing academic and flight training syllabus, taking about three years. However, it will be recognised by the award of a pilot licence and a BSc (Hons) degree in Professional Aviation Pilot Practice conferred the day the graduates start work with their employer airline. Middlesex University oversees the courses and awards the degree.

This huge change is the result of government accepting the concept of pilot training as a Higher Apprenticeship, and therefore agreeing to provide backing for the student loans toward tuition fees and maintenance costs, which are obtainable through the same system used by undergraduates accepted for any other degree course. Students may already apply through the standard access agency for higher education places, UCAS. The course is known as the Higher Apprenticeship in Professional Aviation Pilot Practice.

The new scheme has been under development for several years, led by Simon Witts, the chief executive of the Aviation Skills Partnership working with the airlines, SEMTA (Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing), and People First. Witts says he intends to extend the system to cover all the high-level skills associated with the aviation industry, including air traffic control, airline operations management, engineering and maintenance, and airport operations.

Witts says airlines are backing the scheme, and the three aviation training organisations accredited so far are Southampton-based CTC, CAE Oxford Aviation Academy, and Flying Time at Shoreham.

The scheme is seen as a means of opening up the pilot profession to candidates who may not otherwise have been able to raise the cost of training. As for other degree courses, those with restricted means can also apply for a grant.