Hoeven Working to Promote Private-Sector UAS Flight Training for Air Force

Senator’s Language in Defense Appropriations Bill and Amendment in Defense Authorization Act Could Help Bring New Flight Training Businesses to Grand Sky

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today said he is working to enable the Air Force to use private contractors to train pilots to fly remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). RPAs are the vehicles used in unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

The senator is working on two tracks. He has introduced language in the Defense Appropriations bill and an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would promote a role for the private sector in UAS pilot training. The effort could result in new businesses in Grand Forks, as well as lower costs and greater efficiency for the Air Force, Hoeven said.

Currently, the Air Force is working to train pilots within the service, but there is so much demand that they are still facing a shortage of pilots. There are, however, skilled private contractors – the people who actually make unmanned aircraft – that could help them catch up by doing high quality training for them, Hoeven said.

“It just makes sense for the military to partner with skilled, private-sector companies to provide the critical training the military needs to keep up in this rapidly growing area,” Hoeven said. “It’s a good fit for the Air Force because it’s cost effective and efficient, but it’s also a great fit for Grand Sky, because we can provide a great site for that unmanned aircraft training in North Dakota.”

Hoeven is working with private sector companies to locate at Grand Sky Business and Technology Park, including flight training companies. The park is Grand Forks County’s new facility on the grounds of the Grand Forks Air Force Base designed to attract entrepreneurial business to the region. As an added incentive to the companies, North Dakota hosts the Northern Plains UAS test site, which is one of six national test sites for integrating UAS into the National Airspace.

The senator, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has introduced language into the defense appropriations bill to boost access to private-sector training. The language encourages the Air Force to partner with contractors and leverage their facilities, equipment and personnel to augment pilot training capacity and provide a near-term solution to the shortfall of qualified RPA pilots.”

Specifically, the Hoeven measure in the National Defense Authorization Act directs the Air Force to evaluate the use of private contractor facilities, equipment and trainers to increase the number of qualified pilots for RPA missions. It requires the service to detail various aspects of their shortfalls in manning RPAs, the authorized numbers of personnel assigned to the mission and the identification and assessment of actions to address the shortfall.