Technology helping Purdue address aviation industry pilot shortage

Adam Dunham, a master's student and flight instructor, flies in one of the School of Aviation and Transportation Technology's flight simulators.

Three large flight simulators in Purdue University’s Polytechnic Institute could help the aviation industry address its critical shortage of pilots. The School of Aviation and Transportation Technology is home to a Hawker 900XP full-motion simulator as well as Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 flight simulators.

“This is very rare,” said Mike Suckow, clinical professor of aviation and transportation technology. “In the collegiate environment, there are maybe five universities in the country that would have this level of technology.”

With fewer flights during the pandemic and more experienced pilots accepting buyouts or retiring, airlines need plenty of new pilots, Suckow said.

“Many of our students are going right to the major airlines,” he said. “Pilot hiring is really a boom or bust. It’s very cyclical. There are many years where there is extreme hiring. They ride out their seniority and then you get the extreme retirements. We’re in that phase of retirements.”

Purdue Polytechnic’s professional flight program focuses on preparing pilots for every aspect of the job.

“Flying the airplane, physically flying the airplane, is a very small part of the job,” said Jason Cutter, assistant professor of aviation technology. “It’s all of that other stuff that goes along with it like dealing with passengers, knowing how to deal with the crew members, being able to support the crew members. One of the changes since 9/11 has been the cockpit door stays locked. So, if something is occurring mid-flight, how we react to it now as a captain is very different than how we would have dealt with it 30 years ago. It’s a stressful time for everybody in the industry.”

See the full WTTV story by Angela Brauer.

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