Air Transport World

A question of degree: University of North Dakota's advanced pilot-training program plows new ground and controversy crops up.

Putting graduates of a university sponsored ab initio pilot training program in the right-hand seat of a regional airliner while still in school is the latest innovation in pilot training. Developed at the University of North Dakota, the concept is attracting praise from foreign airlines and criticism from the Air Line Pilots Association.

But this month, for the first time, graduates of the initial pilot-training program, Spectrum, will be sitting in the right seat of a regional airliner operated by Great Lakes Aviation, ferrying passenger within and around North Dakota. The wrinkle is that these brand-new first officers, holders of the commercial, multiengine instrument ratings, remain students. They're enrolled in the Advanced Spectrum, a 12-month advanced pilot-training program, sponsored by the university's Aerospace Foundation.

The students also are foreign nationals, which-as one would expect-has drawn the ire of airline pilots' protector, ALPA.

Advanced Spectrum is a 3-pronged finishing course designed specifically for China Airlines, which wants its pilots to gain airline experience before flying wide-body aircraft on long-haul, overwater routes. The airline also hopes the program will accelerate the advancement of its pilots to captain positions.

For the rest-of the year, Advanced Spectrum will be the exclusive domain of China Airlines' pilots but will be available to other airlines and individuals as capacity becomes available. At $182,000 per student, which includes tuition and aircraft time for a year, it's highly unlikely that individuals will be first in line for it.

The 15-month Spectrum program, which provides about 900 classroom hours and 560 flight hours for students, costs $75,250. Part 141 approval of the program and regulatory approval by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority are expected soon. Regulatory approval for Advanced Spectrum has not yet been sought.

For Advanced Spectrum, the pilots first will receive an additional 100 hr. …

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