Hoeven Secures American Aviator Act In FAA Reauthorization Bill, Extends Vets2Wings Through Fy28

Senator Addresses Veteran Pilot Training Students, Discusses Efforts to Strengthen Pilot & ATC Programs at UND

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today outlined priorities he secured in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation, which passed a preliminary vote of 81-10 in the U.S. Senate on Thursday and needs to be completed by the House and Senate next week, to strengthen the University of North Dakota’s (UND) role as a leader in aviation research, development, training and operations. Hoeven addressed students enrolled in UND’s Vets2Wings program, a pilot training initiative that expands flight training for veterans and helps them cover the gap for costs not included under the GI Bill and other benefits, like Federal Tuition Assistance. Through his role on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven secured $2.5 million to establish Vets2Wings at UND as a pilot program beginning in 2022. This summer, 20 students will have completed the pilot program. Now, through his role on the Senate Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Committee, Hoeven worked to secure in the FAA reauthorization bill:

  • His American Aviator Act to formally authorize the veteran pilot training program through Fiscal Year (FY) 2028.
    • This builds on Hoeven’s efforts to fund the pilot program at UND and will provide long-term certainty to the program.
  • Measures to improve hiring and staffing of air traffic controllers (ATC).
    • This includes legislation Hoeven cosponsored that requires the FAA to use a more accurate staffing model developed by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization.
    • The bill also sets an updated minimum hiring target for new air traffic controllers.
    • These provisions align with Hoeven’s work to establish UND as the first university in the nation where ATC program graduates can move directly into the workforce rather than attending the FAA’s ATC Academy in Oklahoma.

“We rely on skilled aviators on a daily basis to safely and efficiently move people and goods across the country,” said Hoeven. “It makes sense to leverage the professionalism, training and skill of our veterans, combined with the expertise of UND’s flight school, to meet the demand for new commercial pilots, and that’s exactly what Vets2Wings accomplishes. We’ve now secured my American Aviator Act in the FAA reauthorization, which provides a long-term extension of the program to maintain and expand this opportunity for veterans. At the same time, we’re working to strengthen opportunities for UND’s ATC training program, allowing students to bypass the academy in Oklahoma, directly enter the workforce and meet the demand for qualified air traffic controllers.”

Addressing the ATC Shortage

Hoeven continues working with UND to apply for the FAA’s Enhanced Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program, which will authorize institutions to offer the same curriculum provided by the FAA Academy. The application period for the program opened in April and will continue on a rolling basis, with the goal of implementing the enhancements at selected institutions for the fall 2024 semester.

In order to advance UND’s application, Hoeven:

  • Earlier this year, made the case to FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker for UND to lead the way in this new initiative, stressing the university’s position as a world leader in aviation research, education and training.
  • Raised this priority with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at a Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee hearing this week, highlighting the opportunity to leverage UND’s expertise to meet ATC staffing needs.

UND is currently an AT-CTI program, which allows graduates to skip the first five weeks of initial qualification training at the FAA Academy. Under the Enhanced AT-CTI program, graduates will immediately be eligible for hire and to begin localized training at an air traffic facility. This will provide a more streamlined process for qualified air traffic controllers to help meet growing demand at airports across the nation. Graduates will still be required to pass the Air Traffic Skills Assessment (ATSA) exam and meet medical and security requirements.