With pilot shortage on radar, more aviation students landing in Mankato


The demand for pilots is growing – and so is the number of aviation students heading to MSU Mankato.

The Minnesota State University program is the state's only four-year bachelor's degree program in aviation. MPR News reports the enrollment of 176 students is a jump of 60 percent compared to four years ago.

It's quite a reversal for a program that was nearly shut down five years ago. St. Cloud State stopped offering aviation degrees in 2010 and the coordinator of Mankato's program tells MPR they were on the chopping block, too, but were saved by a surge of community support.

MSU's profile within the industry also seems to be taking off.

The university announced at the start of this month that its aviation program has been accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International, a distinction held by fewer than 40 schools in the country, according to the Board's website.

Why a pilot shortage?

A wave of retirements is one reason the demand for pilots is growing. 65 is a mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots and lots of baby boomers are near that age. MPR says the Air Line Pilots Association expects 21,000 U.S. retirements in the next 10 years.

Stricter requirements for becoming a pilot are another factor. The Motley Fool notes that a federal change a few years ago upped the flight time needed to become a copilot from 250 hours to 1,500 hours. USA Today says regional airlines have been urging Congress to roll back the requirement.

Pilots, however, say low starting pay is what's really behind the shortage.

MPR reports a four-year degree aviation degree at MSU Mankato costs the student $146,000.

Mark Biolo, who flies for Hawthorne Aviation in Eau Claire, told WEAU this week that first officers start with annual salaries of $25,000 to $35,000, adding "...for someone to incur $100,000 worth of debt and go to work for almost nothing and have to service that debt while at the same time trying to live, it’s not an appealing career for people now."

This embed is invalid

The U.S. is not alone in facing the prospect of empty cockpits. CNN reports there's an acute shortage in Asia, as well.

A Japanese university has tried to alleviate it through a partnership with the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the University of North Dakota, the Grand Forks Herald reports.

Next Up

U.S. district court minnesota - federal court

Moorhead man charged after 6-year-old was killed with his gun

Because of a previous felony conviction, Phillip Jones Jr. was prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm or ammunition.

Mike Zimmer

Coller: Mike Zimmer is Vikings minicamp's biggest winner

Matthew Coller writes a weekly Vikings column for BMTN, with more of his work found at Purple Insider.

forest service trash

Forest Service finds 2.28 tons of trash on just a 3-mile stretch of road

The agency is reminding people to stop dumping their old stuff.

hail in Burnsville

'Very large hail and damaging winds' possible with severe storms Thursday

Severe weather is likely in parts of Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Police lights

St. Paul robbery ends with pursuit, crash, standoff in Minneapolis

Following the crash, the suspect remained in the car for four hours of negotiations with a SWAT Team.