Hoeven: Military Should Embrace Innovative Solutions in Addressing Pilot Shortage & Universities Like UND Can Help

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, today held a roundtable at the University of North Dakota (UND) to discuss the role the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at UND can play in helping address the military’s pilot shortage. At a recent Defense Appropriations Committee hearing, Hoeven highlighted UND’s Pathways Program partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and a new UND effort to train Air Force ROTC cadets as innovative methods the Air Force should embrace to train future pilots for manned and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) aircraft.

“UND is one of the top aviation schools in the country, and we want to leverage that expertise to help address our military’s need for well-trained pilots for both manned and unmanned aircraft,” said Hoeven. “UND is already partnering with CBP through its Pathways Program to give students professional experience and prepare them for a future career while addressing a key need for the agency. This program should serve as a model for our nation’s military and we’re working with UND and the Air Force to establish a similar effort to accelerate pilot training for ROTC cadets so they can start their Air Force flying careers.”

Last year, 15 UND students were selected to train under the CBP Pathways Program. Under the program, sophomore and junior student pilots are hired by CBP as aviation enforcement trainees. CBP will convert these students into full-time CBP pilots after graduation and accumulation of flight hours.

In addition, Congress recently passed a Hoeven-sponsored provision to provide $4 million for a program to train Air Force ROTC cadets at flight schools like UND. These cadets will make early commitments to careers as Air Force pilots, accumulate flight experience while in the ROTC and be available to fly Air Force missions much sooner. The Air Force also recently informed Hoeven that UND was selected as one of six partner universities for the inaugural Air Force Junior ROTC Flight Academy. Through the program, 10 Air Force Junior ROTC students will attend a seven week flight training school at UND this summer to earn their Private Pilot Licenses.

To promote UAS training, Hoeven secured an amendment in the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act to allow the National Guard to send UAS pilots to a civilian contractor for training if the Air Force cannot timely train pilots. The Air National Guard has often seen delays in getting its pilots fully trained for UAS aircraft, and the senator’s amendment ensures that pilots are able to train using facilities like those at Grand Sky.