ELIZABETH CITY – Aviation science is complex. But for Elizabeth City State University Chancellor Thomas Conway, the economics of aviation are a matter of simple supply and demand.
“The aviation business worldwide is growing, and there’s a worldwide shortage of pilots. All of these things come together to make Aviation Science a very viable degree at this point,” Conway says in the accompanying video.
According to industry projections, North American airlines will need 117,000 new pilots over the next 20 years.1
“Airlines and routes for flights are expanding rapidly,” Conway says.2 “And the number of people that are qualified to sit in that cockpit and do the kind of work that’s associated with that is really still trying to catch up with the need.”
Kuldeep Rawat, Director of ECSU’s Aviation Science Program, says the program is the only four-year aviation program in the UNC System and the state. It is one of just three at public HBCUs on the East Coast.
Students can prepare for careers as professional pilots, air traffic controllers, in aviation management, in avionics or with a new concentration in unmanned aircraft systems (commonly known as drones).
“We are hitting in all these job market areas,” Rawat says.
“There is a huge demand for pilots, a huge demand for air traffic controllers … they’re about to retire – we need new air traffic controllers to fill those positions. Then there’s the whole big market of unmanned aircraft systems emerging and expected to be a billion-dollar industry in the future.”
ECSU happens to be just 2 miles from the largest U.S. Coast Guard air station in the country; the university takes advantage and offers its flight training from the base.
“We have a strong partnership with the Coast Guard,” Rawat says. He cites a proud example of one Elizabeth City student who obtained his degree, joined the Coast Guard and eventually returned to fly massive C130-J cargo planes from the Elizabeth City base.Other graduates have gone to work as airline pilots. And Rawat says he is working on a partnership with one airline to create a formal “pilot pipeline” to recruit more would-be pilots.
2 BBC World Service, “China’s Air Travel Boom,” February 8, 2018, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csw8b0.