UAA adds to their aviation division in an effort to fight pilot shortage

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – National Aviation Week begins Aug. 19, recognizing the achievements that have simplified long-distance travel.

The week is a celebration of all things aviation. In 1939 the week was declared a national holiday as aviation was born in the United States. The date even coincides with Orville Wright’s birthday.

Aviation history is full of exciting endeavors and exploration. But in Alaska, it’s more of a necessity than a perk. Currently, the airline industry desperately needs pilots, and Alaska is no exception.

Alaska is home to some of the busiest airports not only in the United States, but in the entire world as well as the most airplanes owned per capita for the general population. In a state where flying is just as important as driving, the University of Alaska Anchorage is hoping to lure potential pilots in by adding to its aviation division.

Andrew Garner, the Development and Education Officer at the Alaska Aviation Museum, explains how air travel is critical in Alaska.

“Less than 5% of Alaska is accessible by roadway so aircraft really are the only way to get to some of the smaller villages and hamlets that are located away from the three major cities of Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau,” Garner says.

Some of the courses offered will include:

  • Tailwheel courses: The Tailwheel Program is not as common in the Lower 48, however, a lot of general aviation airplanes in Alaska are tailwheel aircraft.
  • ATC and Radar Control Labs: These full-room simulator labs mimic an air traffic control tower. UAA is one of the few schools to offer the ATCTI program, which trains people to get ready to go into the Air Traffic Control Field.
  • Pinch Hitter course: This course teaches non-pilots how to handle a potential emergency where the pilot becomes incapacitated. During the spring 2022 semester, non-pilots went through a two-day course with a certified flight instructor and flew a flight simulator to deal with emergency scenarios.
  • Even drones have been added to the mix. During the spring 2022 semester, students were given hands-on training to use drones for various uses on land. According to garner drone flying often stimulates interest in aviation.
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“If you ask a lot of civilian pilots or even commercial pilots, especially these days, where they first learned how to fly or what ignited that interest in aviation, a lot of them will point to drones,” said Garner.

The Alaska Aviation Museum is also playing its part. Each year they have the Alaska Aviation Club, a week-long program for middle school students to come in and learn about aircraft, basic flying, and the science behind planes.

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