California Aeronautical University provides pilots during shortage, launches careers

Posted at 2:16 PM, Jun 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-17 21:19:55-04

California Aeronautical University just started classes in Bakersfield and is working to fast track pilots into your commercial airliner, fulfilling a growing need, President Matt Johnston said.

"Regional airlines are losing their pilots to larger carriers," Johnston said. Pilots get more money with a larger carrier, which gives them more bang for their buck after spending thousands on a pilot's license.

After a tragic crash in New York, lawmakers changing the required number of flight hours from 250 to 1,500, making some pilots unqualified and others spend more time and money getting the title.

Cal Aero's mission is to fulfill this growing need. They have a partnership with SkyWest and other carriers, where students from their program become cadets and eventually fulltime pilots.

Julio Gonzalez is one of the first five students who will graduate from the Bakersfield university. He started classes in January and hopes to fly a 747 one day.

"Watching the jets, hearing the jets ever since I was little," made him pursue this career. "We're neighbors [with Meadows Field Airport] like basically, you can hear the planes taking off, so it's just amazing," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez lives in one of the 168 dorm rooms on campus. The campus, while it looks brand new, has been around since the early 1990's, functioning as a training camp for Japanese captains.

About 3,000 pilots graduated from the school.

When Cal Aero started looking for a place to create this university, "Bakersfield found us," Johnston said.

The campus is all inclusive, with a gym, cafeteria, basketball court, pool and of course classrooms, flight simulators and runway.

Peter Van Dyke, Director of Flight Operations at Cal Aero, said the facilities and surrounding space leave plenty of growing room. While the school only has 9 students, 12 staff members, and four planes in Bakersfield, Van Dyke says they can house up to 336 students and more than 30 small planes.

That brings students from across the country, "We have a kid from Hawaii, I'm from Vegas, a kid 7-hours away in northern California," Gonzalez said.

Johnston says this is a great opportunity to bring business to Bakersfield and launch careers in aerospace.

The university has a satellite campus in Oxnard that started in 2015 and currently has 13 students.