Sandhills Community College and the Moore County Airport are considering joining forces to create a new program that they hope will “soar” in popularity with their students.
Bill Bateman, chairman of the Moore County Airport Authority and a commercial pilot with Southwest Airlines, presented the idea for a professional pilot program that would combine classes at Sandhills with flight training at the nearby airport. The idea, he said, came from a growing shortage of pilots on both the national and international levels.
“Our industry is facing a crisis,” Bateman told an assembly of county commissioners, Sandhills officials and others on Tuesday. “There is an estimated global need for more than 500,000 pilots in the next 20 years, with 20,000 pilots needed per year.
“There is an ever-shrinking pool of qualified applicants due to the number of mandatory retirements that are coming, so this is a good time to put our resources together and serve us, the state and beyond.”
If approved, the two-year program will offer a career pilot degree and a community college career pilot certificate. Example career paths for professional pilots include becoming a certified flight instructor or piloting corporate, commercial or military aircraft.
Only three other community colleges in the state offer a similar professional pilot program, Bateman said.
“Guilford Tech in Greensboro, Asheville-Buncombe Tech in Asheville, and Lenoir Community College in Kinston offer career pilot programs, but none are easily accessible to Moore County residents,” he said. “The Sandhills Community College Career Pilot Program would fill this void for Moore and the surrounding counties.”
Sandhills President John Dempsey said that, provided the program is approved by the state community college’s governing board, the college would know “in two or three years” if the program would be a success.