Delta Air Lines is considering a "blue sky" theory for how to meet future pilot demands. Called "CAPT," for Civil Airline Pilot Training programme, the carrier stresses the idea is conceptual in nature and that it is not committed to the implementation, nor is it engaged in discussions with potential sponsors.

Speaking at the World Aviation Training conference in Orlando, Florida on 19 April, Arnie Kraby, Delta's manager of pilot selection, said a dramatic pilot shortage is a "gathering storm" that industry must address. Delta alone in the next 15 years will lose 7,600 pilots who will reach age-65 and retire, says Kraby.

CAPT would mainly look to high-tier college aviation programmes as means of cultivating pilots. "Statistical data indicates that a quality college education from a top-tier university or college provides us with a much better pilot in terms of fewer training failures, overall performance and reliability," notes Kraby.

The programme would include advanced jet aircraft simulation training and would be on par with military training, which produces skilled pilots qualified to fly high-performance aircraft in a shorter period compared with the civil sector, says Kraby. He is a former US Air Force pilot who flew Delta aircraft for 38 years,

"First we need to educate, mentor and train students," says Kraby. The CAPT programme would invite stakeholders across industry to come onboard as sponsors and jointly work out solutions. One of the first goals would be to build an outreach programme focused on middle- and high schools in an effort to stir up enthusiasm for the pilot profession.

CAPT candidates would be carefully screened to choose only those who have skills necessary to become a pilot. The candidate would have to maintain a 2.75 GPA, and 3.0 GPA for aviation courses. Upon earning a degree, the candidate would be required stay on as CAPT member and accrue 1,000 hours as a flight instructor at the university, thus providing a stable workforce for the school and to acquire FAA-required flight hours.

Graduates of the programme would be guaranteed an interview at a sponsoring regional airline. Then, after meeting regional airline requirements and logging required number of hours for a mainline slot (Delta requires 1,200 hours), CAPT would offer an interview at a major airline sponsor-- "another light at the end of the tunnel", says Kraby.

With aviation training costs running $80,000-$100,000, Kraby stresses: "We've [industry] got to provide financial assistance for students if we are to get the [pilot] numbers." The programme might require that student loans be guaranteed by the sponsoring organisation. Another solution might be to have loans reduced by 5% per year up to a maximum of 50% for each year the candidate works for a sponsoring airline.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news