‘Dire Shortage’ of Pilots Prompts Effort to Boost Student Loans

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Prospective pilots would have more access to scholarships and loans to help with the pricey costs of commercial pilot training school under a bipartisan bill being introduced Wednesday.

The legislation would amend law to increase maximum limits on federal loans for students getting a degree in flight education and training programs. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), both members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, are introducing the bill, which was obtained by Bloomberg Government.

The new proposal would “remove barriers for future aviators to obtain their commercial pilots license, strengthen the pipeline of talent to a family-supporting career in aviation, and meet the critical demand for pilots,” Baldwin said in a statement.

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A backlog in the pilot training pipeline, retirements, worker shortages affecting industries across the US and more air travel in the US have contributed to the increased demand for pilots. Unions and air carriers cite training costs as a barrier to getting more pilots in planes.

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Airline pilots must complete federally regulated training, which can usually cost about $80,000 in tuition and fees for the degree, the senators said, citing the University Aviation Association estimates.

“Our country is rapidly encountering a dire shortage of pilots that threatens our economic security and the well-being of our citizens,” Sullivan said in a statement. “The cost of training is a significant barrier.”

The lawmakers could seek to include the proposal in legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration this year. The deadline to pass the reauthorization bill or an extension is Sept. 30.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at lbyington@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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