US Flight School Partners With Airline to Combat ‘Pilot Shortage’


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Epic Flight Academy has partnered with Trans States Airlines (TSA) and will accept its first class of students into its Airline Pilot Career Sponsorship training programme starting on April 7, 2016.

Epic and Trans States Airlines developed the accelerated programme to provide financial assistance to students and pilots. The programme is the first of its kind, offering domestic students sponsorship prior to training.

Danny Perna, CEO of Epic Flight Academy since 1999, explained the advantages of the partnership in terms of providing access to financial assistance for vocational training. “When the market crashed in 2008, there was an immediate and detrimental impact on financing for American students seeking vocational education of any kind, even flight school,” he said. “This was one of the most significant challenges to the industry that I have witnessed during my career in aviation.” Danny added that the programme aims to combat the pilot shortage, saying that “in an industry where safety always comes first, a pilot shortage would present a national crisis,” citing growth in the industry and mandatory retirement ages for pilots as reasons for the demand for new pilots.

Danny says the new programme not only provides access to funding and sponsorship, it also offers a full circle pilot career path working for an airline. Students will be evaluated and selected based in part on their aptitude and motivation and those selected complete a month-long ground school and simulator course. After successful completion of the course, Epic and TSA use a screening and interview process to determine which students are selected for the ‘Pilot Career Path’ programme. Perna emphasized the importance of attitude and work ethic.

Trans States Airlines, the 22nd largest and fastest growing American regional airline, hires some 400 pilots annually. Founded in 1982, TSA, with corporate headquarters in St. Louis, operates more than 80 aircraft and currently employs more than 700 pilots. The Airline Pilot Career Sponsorship programme is the first of its kind where an airline has been involved funding training up front and will help new pilots entering the field.

Fred Oxley, COO of TSA, said, “We have always had a competitive pay structure for our pilots. However, this program not only makes us one of the highest paying regional airlines, it involves us in every step of their training, starting with screening and selection. This assures us that new pilots starting with us are trained to the highest and safest standards.”

The experience students bring to the programme will determine how much sponsorship and training credit they will receive. An eligible student starting with no experience can qualify for as much a $10,000 sponsorship from TSA and $5,000 of training credit from Epic. Students will complete an eight-month training course at Epic and then work as paid flight instructors. Once students earn their Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) minimums, they start their employment with Trans States Airlines.