Purdue showcases technology, hoping to recruit and help fill ongoing pilot shortage

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University showcases its unique aviation technology.

Enter the Niswonger Aviation Technology Building and you’ll find three large aviation simulators for the school’s students. Among them is the A320, a full-motion “Hawker 900XP” – which mimics in-flight motion – and a 737, which mimics most of Boeing’s fleet.

It’s very rare, ”said Mike Suckow, clinical associate professor and deputy head of department in the Department of Aviation Technology. “In the college environment, there are maybe five universities in the country that would have this level of technology. ”

Purdue officials believe the high level of technology has helped launch their aviation students into the commercial flight industry. Suckow said many Purdue aviation students got jobs right after graduation.

“A lot of our students go directly to the big airlines,” he said.

One student who hopes to become a professional pilot soon is Adam Dunham. The masters student and flight instructor said he had no aviation training prior to attending Purdue.

“Four years later, I know how to fly an A320 plane,” he said while testing the simulator. “You don’t just learn how to move a stick and a rotor, but you also learn how airplanes work, the systems behind the scenes. How does an airline work? How to ensure that ground personnel can push back the plane while communicating with air traffic control? “

Dunham said he had practiced smooth flights, but also flights that mimicked emergencies, such as a theft or engine failure.

“With the pilot shortage and the high demand for pilots, it’s easy to rush into training and say I’ll get there and fly the plane. We don’t just teach you how to fly, we teach you scenarios, the systems behind the aircraft, and we really provide a safe experience for us as well as future passengers, ”explained Dunham.

Currently, Purdue has approximately 103 freshmen who have declared their major in aviation. Last year there were 38 students and the year before 78. The school is recruiting for its program in hopes of helping fill what has been described as a severe pilot shortage.

“We are also working very hard with middle and high schools to increase the base. The industry has responded with great compensation packages and has done its job. Now we need to find a way to make students better understand that this is a viable career path, ”Suckow said.

Several major airlines have told CBS4 they are hiring, including Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines.

“Hiring pilots is really a boom or a bust,” Suckow said. “It’s very cyclical. There are many years when there are extreme hires. They overcome their seniority and then you get the extreme pensions. We are in this phase of retirement.

Purdue professor Jason Cutter said their program also focuses on the mental preparation of pilots.

“Flying the plane, physically piloting the plane, is a very small part of the job. It’s all those other things that go with it, like looking after the passengers, knowing how to look after the crew members, being able to support the crew members, ”he said. “One of the changes since September 11 is that the cockpit door remains locked. So if something happens in mid-flight, the way we react to it now as a captain is very different from how we would have handled it 30 years ago. It is a stressful time for everyone in the industry.

Cutter said that when he was a captain he would occasionally get up from his seat and approach the individual himself. Now the captains can’t do that.

“Usually they would respond to that authority figure of the captain. Now that option is off the table. We trust our cabin crew to take care of it instead.”

TSA confirms flight attendants take self-defense courses

As of September 21, 2021, the FAA reported that there had been more than 4,000 unruly passengers since the start of the year. More than 3,000 of these were mask-related incidents, resulting from the federal travel mask mandate requiring everyone on airports, planes, trains and other public transportation to wear a face cover.

CBS4 spoke to the Transportation Security Administration about what they are doing to reduce the current strain. TSA spokesperson for the Great Lakes region, Jessica Mayle, confirmed that about 3,000 flight attendants chose to take a self-defense course to assist them in flight.

“It’s a confined environment up there. You don’t have access to a lot of tools that we would have on the ground in a threatening situation, so we just want to make sure the flight attendants are able to protect themselves appropriately, ”she explained.

Mayle did not believe any Indiana-based flight attendant took the course in 2021.

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