Ohio State Flight Education’s role in the future of aviation

Posted: January 6, 2021
Image of student completing a preflight check
David Sawires, air transportation student, performs a preflight check on an aircraft

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the ways we work, travel and live. Amidst statewide stay-at-home orders and CDC travel recommendations, it’s well known that the commercial aviation industry has taken a financial hit, the biggest since 9/11. So, how is this affecting those studying to be pilots? Closer to home, what is The Ohio State University Flight Education doing to help the industry bounce back?

Not only is the industry facing the hit imposed by the pandemic, but a pilot shortage also looms on the horizon. Boeing predicts that by 2039, North America alone will need 208,000 new pilots, 192,000 new technicians and 169,000 new cabin crew members to satisfy the industry’s growing demand.

“Over the next decade, tens of thousands of flying professionals will retire, accelerating the need for more pilots,” said Stephanie Morgan, executive director of the university’s Air Transportation and Aerospace Campus. “We are dedicated to preparing a pipeline of quality pilots to help fill the gap.”

“In years past, we’ve expected to see a dramatic rise in the need for pilots across the aviation industry because of increasing demand for air travel and the introduction of new aircraft into the industry,” she continued. As the world recovers from the pandemic, that need for airport essential workers is expected to be even more prevalent. Now, more than ever, the industry will depend on a new generation of workers to fill those positions. The Ohio State University’s Flight Education program will be an integral component in preparing these students for the future.

Future takes flight

In the coming years, The Ohio State University Airport (KOSU) will continue to serve as a premier flight school for preparing the next generation of aviation professionals. Ohio State has a unique role amongst general airports in serving as a learning lab for aspiring pilots and air transportation workers. Not only does KOSU stimulate the local economy through its role in commercial and private air travel, it also houses Ohio State’s flight education program, each year sending a new class of graduates into the workforce. In autumn semester 2020, 170 students were enrolled in the program, up 36% from 125 students last year.

Ohio State’s Center for Aviation Studies (CAS) works alongside the airport to provide a unique experiential learning experience for students. CAS is a leader in improving training to best align with the needs of the industry, receiving a Federal Aviation Administration-sponsored grant in June of 2019 to enhance its program. The Center for Aviation Studies hit an enrollment milestone this past year, topping 400 students for the first time in its history.

Despite the pandemic, flight education is propelling forward.

Image of two students in a cockpit
Air transportation major Osman Hussein, left, and Nolan Enzweiler, aviation student, in a training aircraft cockpit

"We have adapted our flight education program to be increasingly effective during the pandemic, utilizing virtual classroom settings and creating the safest possible environment for flying," said Morgan.

The program has implemented comprehensive sanitization and safety protocols along with modified flight and dispatch schedules. In addition to the six different types of training aircraft, KOSU is also equipped with three supplementary simulators: Frasca Truflight Flight Training Device, Redbird FMX Simulator and Frasca Reconfigurable Training Device.

In an era of uncertainty, the Ohio State community is working together to provide a memorable and effective learning experience for all of its students.

“Airports serve as a critical component of the national transportation system,” shared Morgan. “At Ohio State, we are committed to continuing to provide highly trained graduates ready to fulfill cockpits throughout the aviation industry, during the pandemic and well beyond.”

by Erin O’Brien, professional writing intern