By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4) – As travel picks up from the height of pandemic lockdowns, aviation experts say airlines are dealing with a shortage of pilots. The FAA is now shortening the path to a career in aviation for students like Declan Kreck at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“We’ve got all of our instruments here things like airspeed right here,” Keck said.

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He’s a sophomore making his way through the university’s Aviation program now.

“I’m in air traffic control aerodynamics, lots of different field’s meteorology, systems, mechanics, obviously flying and then physics also,” he said.

When he started the program, requirements also included 1,500 hours of flight time, which can take years to achieve. While the quality of the curriculum and course work will stay the same, with the FAA’s approval the required flight time drops to 1,000 hours for MSU Denver Students specifically.

(credit: CBS)

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“Actually, having this authorization, saving 500 hours of flight time, means students can save a year to two years of not being a flight instructor and going into the airlines,” MSU Denver Professor Chad Kendall said.

Kendall helped the university secure that authorization, at a time when pilots are desperately needed.

Delta Airlines recently announce it plans to hire more than 1,000 pilots by next summer. American Airlines is looking for more than 1,300 by the end of next year and United Airlines is hiring 1,500 pilots.

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“Before COVID there was a pilot shortage. COVID unfortunate as it is actually accelerated the pilot shortage there was just a little bit of time when the airlines stopped hiring,” Kendall said. “Now the public is back and flying and so that pilot shortage that we saw before COVID is back in full force now.”

For Kreck it means his dream will likely take off much sooner than he expected.

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“Hopefully it will open a lot of opportunities,” he said.

Karen Morfitt