NewsCovering Kern County


Bakersfield's first and only aviation university is helping bridge the gap in global pilot shortage

Posted at 12:54 PM, Feb 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-09 15:54:36-05

If you’ve ever dreamed of being a pilot – now’s the time.


Just steps away from Meadows Field Airport, California Aeronautical University (CAU), is giving locals the opportunity to become professional pilots.


Immersed in aviation, in just three years students can earn their bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics – taking them from the classroom to the cockpit.


CAU’s ambitious year-round program is committed to producing knowledgeable and well-equipped pilots - essential to preventing travel chaos. 


And it's a terrific time to become a pilot, as airlines are scrambling to head off a looming commercial pilot shortage that could reach crisis levels in the near future.


According to Boeing, in order to meet the demands of basic air travel, in the next two decades, the industry will need 117,000 new commercial pilots in North America alone and 637,000 worldwide. 


But just how did we reach this dilemma? In 2009 a plane crash near buffalo killed 49 people. The national transportation safety board says it was caused in part by pilot error, leading lawmakers to increase the number of required flight hours to become a pilot from 250 to 1500.


And it doesn’t help that the U.S. military who has been the main source for commercial pilots, just isn’t producing them like they used to. The implementation of new technology, like drones, is eliminating the need for traditional pilot training.


According to Cowen & Company, as the current crop of pilots reach the mandated retirement age of 65, more than 42% of active U.S. major airline pilots will retire over the next 10 years.


Regional carriers are now partnering with collegiate aviation programs like CAU are recruiting students before they hit the job market. 


And to sweeten the deal these companies are offering enticing incentives to get these future pilots on board.


In addition to intensive classroom training, students utilize state-of-the-art technology like FAA-approved flight simulators before allowing students to test their skills in the real thing.


And in no time students are off into the sky – perfecting their craft in $350,000 Cessna 172s that closely simulate the cockpit of commercial airliners. 


Enrollment at CAU is expected to double by next year. Helping local residents spread their wings…and earn them too.


For more information about California Aeronautical University, visit their website