DUBUQUE, Iowa - There could soon be trouble in the friendly skies thanks to an expected pilot shortage. It has to do with new federal mandates set to kick in next summer. That's when aviation students will be required to spend 1500 hours flying to earn a pilot's license. That's six times the current minimum training hours, making flight school take longer and cost more.
While preparing for take off, University of Dubuque Aviation Student Brandon Smoot is looking at the positive side of a pilot shortage.
Smoot said, "It makes me feel a little bit reassured that hopefully there are more jobs out there. "
Each training flight costs students a rental fee. With the current required number of flight hours, those fee add up to about $45,000 over four years. That's in addition to room and board costs.
University of Dubuque Aviation Program Director, Steve Accinelli said, "Students will be putting a lot more money into this education and the pathway just got a lot harder. "
An increase to the cost of those hours seems to be a turn off for potential pilots. U.D.'s Aviation program enrollment has dropped ten percent in the past two years.
Accinelli said, "we know that good training produces a good quality pilot. We also know that hours don't necessarily produce a quality pilot. "
Accinelli worries the shortage will end up impacting travelers. He thinks smaller airports like Dubuque, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo will be hardest hit.
Accinelli said, "we won't have the people to hire to man the aircraft. "
As for Smoot, the new regulations won't ground him.
"I mean you love it and you have to do what you love," said Smoot.
He has his sights set on the sky.
The changes in the training requirements come just as thousands of baby boomer-age pilots are set to retire.