Averett program puts students on a flight path
Two regional airlines have Averett University’s aeronautics graduates on their radar screens.
Piedmont and PSA airlines, subsidiaries of American Airlines Group, have started a cadet program with the Danville-based university. The partnership offers qualified students career paths leading them to become American Airlines pilots.
“There is a huge demand for pilots right now,” says Travis Williams, chief flight instructor for Averett’s aeronautics program. “Pilots have a mandatory retirement age of 65, and people are retiring. As a result, regional pilots are moving up. Regional airlines can’t fill the need they have.”
Normally aeronautics majors graduating from flight programs have 300 flight hours. To fly for Piedmont or PSA, however, candidates need a minimum of 1,000 flight hours.
“They have got to come up with 700 hours,” Williams says. “This is the reason for the partnership. Piedmont and PSA hire students while they are in school and working for Averett as flight instructors, building those hours. The minute they hit 1,000 they are employed by Piedmont or PSA and go right into training for them.”
After gaining experience as regional airline pilots, Averett graduates can transition to American Airlines.
Approximately 65 students are in Averett’s 2016-17 program with the regional airlines. That number includes about 27 incoming students. “I think the word is finally starting to get out that there is a great demand for pilots, and that is why we are seeing an increase of students into the program,” Williams says. “There is a good future in aviation.”
Averett was one of the first schools to sign an agreement with Piedmont and one of the first 14 schools to sign with PSA.
Two other Virginia schools, Liberty University and Hampton University, offer bachelor’s degree programs in aviation/aeronautics. Liberty also has a partnership with Piedmont.
“To start at Averett as freshmen and flow all the way through to eventually becoming American Airlines pilots is a unique opportunity for our qualifying students,” says Williams.