The new arrangement with Chautauqua Airlines, a US Airways Express operator based in Indianapolis, guarantees Purdue aviation students a job after graduation. In return for qualified pilots, Chautauqua is providing $60,000 in funding and class materials that will allow Purdue to integrate the airlines' orientation and training programs into its aviation technology curriculum.
"We believe this arrangement is the first of its kind in the country, because the company's training and Federal Aviation Administration requirements are actually becoming a part of our curriculum," said Bernard Wulle, professor of aviation technology. "This makes Chautauqua Airlines a partner in the educational process."
Students who choose the special commuter airline track will begin taking the Chautauqua-related courses at the end of their junior year. Upon successful completion of the program, they will have fulfilled the flight training requirement to become first officers for the airline.
Chautauqua spokesman Mike Suckow said it's a win-win situation for all parties involved.
"University aviation training programs such as Purdue's School of Technology will be a major source of qualified pilot candidates in the future," Suckow said. "This partnership allows us to assist with the training needs of the school with a goal of providing flight positions for graduates."
At a recent meeting of the Regional Airlines Association in Reno, Nev., executives estimated that nearly 10,000 pilots will be needed for regional airline operations by the year 2000. This is largely because of retirements at the major airlines, which hire their new pilots from the commuter ranks.
"Chautauqua could expect to lose an average of 10 percent of its pilots to the majors every year, but in the last two years that number has jumped to about 25 percent," Wulle explained.
The typical career path for a professional pilot is to spend two to four years as a flight instructor or charter pilot after graduating from college. This allows the new pilot to accumulate the flight time necessary to fly for a regional airline -- an average of 1,500 hours. The Purdue-Chautauqua program will put Purdue graduates in Chautauqua cockpits immediately after graduation.
While the new arrangement will result in younger pilots flying commuter planes, Wulle says they will be better trained.
"We're going to produce even safer pilots through a more concentrated training program that has students working on the exact type of equipment they will eventually be flying," he said.
Wulle said he hopes the new agreement with Chautauqua Airlines is the first of many partnerships between the aviation technology department and the airline industry.
"We would eventually like to see Purdue develop into a regional airline training center that will focus on not only pilot training but also aircraft maintenance, airline management and aviation administration," he said.
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