As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continues to predict an airline pilot shortage for the next 20 years, colleges like Motlow State Community College are working to develop a ready workforce for the industry in Shelbyville.
Monday marked the grand opening of Motlow’s Aviation Simulation Lab at the Middle Tennessee Higher education Center, 200 Dover St.
Motlow State President Michael Torrence said, “Our goal is to make sure there is a clean, clear pathway for educational attainment and skill development for our young people as well as those folks who are coming out of something mid-career.”
“The aviation industry in this region is growing and this in support of that,” Shelbyville-Bedford Partnership CEO Shane Hooper said. “The more people we can help through workforce development, that’s one of our primary goals is to make sure that we have not just more jobs but better jobs.”
This is a bonus as an economic benefit as jobs in the aviation industry tend to be higher income jobs, which helps support the efforts of Shelbyville-Bedford’s development, according to Hooper.
Tony Millican, Executive Vice President for Workforce & Community Development at Motlow, added, “Exposure and access is really what it’s all about. When it comes to workforce development at Motlow, we really want to focus on those careers, those particular specialties, that we know our folks have great hope in...”
Highlighting this “educational pathway” opportunity, Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham said the county is “committed to education.” This simulation lab is “moving the needle” of education in Bedford.
Newly-elected Shelbyville Mayor Randy Carroll also spoke. A graduate of Motlow and a veteran of Naval aviation, Carroll said, “We’re glad to have you here and anything we can do from the City of Shelbyville’s standpoint, let us know.”
The need for pilots
More pilots are needed in today’s world, experts say. In addition to an increasing demand for air travel, airline pilot retirements outnumber the pilots training to replace them. Pilots are required to retire at 65 . Statistics show that over the next 20 years, 80,000 airline pilots will retire.
By 2023 alone, a shortage of 12,000 pilots is expected due to mandatory and COVID-related early retirements. Boeing’s Pilot and Technician Outlook projects that 208,000 pilots will be needed in North America.
But aviation careers don’t just go to commercial piloting. Students interested in aviation can find careers as agricultural pilots, pipeline and powerline patrol pilots, aerial surveyors, air ambulance pilots, flight instructors, banner towing pilots, charter pilots, and the exhilarating skydive pilots.
Why a simulator?
These simulators will help young trainees know what potential and possibilities are inside the aviation world, according to Millican.
Allen Howell, owner of Shelbyville Flight Academy, said this is a vision that has been in process for several years.
“Our company is honored to work with Motlow State and their entire team to operate this state-of-the-art simulation lab for pilot training,” Howell said.
In addition to helping aviators maintain their proficiency and skills, simulator training is capable of creating scenarios that they could never safely do in an airplane, Howell explained.
“Doing so allows us to prepare pilots for emergencies they may never face in flying,” he said.
Not to mention, the simulator is also cost-effective.
The average airplane rental rate plus a flight instructor costs $250 per hour. To save costs, pilots can log up to 38 hours toward their commercial pilot training time requirements in a Redbird Advanced Aviation Training Device (AATD).
The Motlow Trained RedBird Aviation Simulators, which are FAA endorsed, will reduce cost and time for pilots in training.
Other schools impacted
And going back to attaining those clear “educational pathways,” this will help with Middle Tennessee State University’s department of aerospace.
“The program with MTSU and the Shelbyville Airport is a reflection of that same growth in the aviation industry. And, yes, this will help provide a pathway, especially for our kids in the Bedford County School System,” said Greg Van Patten, interim dean for the College of Basic and Applied Sciences at MTSU.
“We are interested in the possibilities that this raises for our students to have multiple avenues into the career path of aviation,” he said. “I think the timing on this is really cool...This really could make Shelbyville and Bedford County a center of aviation for the Southeast.”
As for the MTSU Aerospace Department moving from Murfreesboro to Shelbyville Municipal Airport, Van Patten said it’s all still in the works and that the conversation is continuing with elected officials.
Van Patten and several MTSU leaders, including President Sidney A, McPhee and Reese Smith, chairman of the Board of Trustees, gave an extensive presentation to Shelbyville City Council about the proposed move on Wednesday. See Tuesday’s Times-Gazette for coverage.