Liberty University partners with Spirit in pilot pipeline program
Partnership comes amid national pilot shortage
Liberty University is partnering with Spirit Airlines in a pipeline program to land aeronautics graduates jobs as pilots amid a national shortage.
Spirit, a low-cost airline headquartered in Miramar, Florida, with presences at Richmond and Norfolk’s airports, announced the partnership Thursday. Liberty, which has an aeronautics school, is the 10th partner in the airline’s Spirit Wings Pilot Pathway program.
“Liberty University offers a premier pilot training program designed to provide graduates with the skills to lead in the aviation field, and Spirit’s growth creates opportunities for those graduates to achieve their dreams with us,” Ryan Rodosta, Spirit Airlines’ senior director of flight operations and system chief pilot, said in a statement.
Liberty students pursuing an aviation degree can apply for the program after finishing their sophomore year and with a recommendation from a faculty member. If successful in Spirit’s interview process, they will receive a conditional offer of employment, mentorship and an electronic flight bag, which can help perform basic flight planning and offers digital documentation tools. After reaching federal minimum requirements for co-pilot certification, students must complete the Spirit-funded and approved airline transport pilot certification training program and jet transition course. Graduates who meet all the requirements will be offered a position as a first officer with the airline.
“This partnership is a major step in creating exceptional opportunities for our graduates, providing selected Liberty trained aviation professionals with a unique pathway directly to Spirit once they fulfill the necessary training and experience,” Rick Roof, dean of Liberty’s School of Aeronautics, said in a statement. “Spirit will gain access to pilots with exceptional technical skills and the character to be difference-makers in the aerospace industry, while Liberty Aeronautics graduates can become a member of the Spirit team where they will join a recognized leader in quality of life while flying some of the most advanced aircraft in the skies.”
Liberty did not immediately respond to requests from Virginia Business for more information.
The partnership comes as airlines face criticism over snarls that have caused travel delays across the country on several occasions in recent years, including from a national shortage of pilots that forced airlines to cut flights. An expected wave of pilot retirements was also exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which airlines offered early retirement and buyout packages in an effort to save money. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates about 16,800 openings for airline and commercial pilots annually during the next decade to replace those exiting the workforce, including retirements.