Coffman Introduces Bill to Ease Pilot Shortage

Extends Loan Deferment for Flight Students

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Washington, September 27, 2018 | Daniel Bucheli (202-225-7882) | comments

Washington, D.C. –  Today, U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) introduced H.R. 6926, the ‘Pilot Act of 2018’. If enacted, this bill will extend the deferment period for federal loan repayments for student pilots while they work to meet the flight hours required before they are eligible to receive their Airline Transport Pilot License and can start flying for the airlines. The bill would extend the repayment grace period for up to three years, instead of the six months currently under federal law.   

Coffman got involved in the issue, as the chairman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee for the House Armed Services Committee, over concerns about the increasing pilot shortage in the military with so many pilots leaving at the 12-year mark, when they are at the peak of their proficiency, for the commercial airlines. Under the Coffman bill, the extended loan deferment period is designed to give graduates from aviation programs, the ability to get their required flight hours completed, and they can start working as commercial pilots, before their student loan repayments start.

“We currently have a significant shortage of pilots in the nation’s commercial sector which is now even impacting national security because the airlines are aggressively recruiting military pilots. The increase in flight hours, required by the FAA since 2013, makes it financially difficult to start repaying student loans shortly after graduating because they still have to meet their flight hours requirement before they can start flying professionally,” said Coffman.

In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a rule increasing the minimum flight hours for first officers (co-pilots) from 250 hours to 1,500 hours. Additionally, this rule required those wishing to fly passenger and cargo airlines to possess a specific aircraft type rating, which often involves extra time, cost, and training— hitting regional airports and airlines the hardest.   To be eligible for an Airline Transport Pilot License, former military pilots require a minimum of 750 flight hours; for graduates from academic programs with approved aviation majors, the flight hour requirement is 1,000 hours; and for graduates with associate degrees in approved aviation programs, the requirement is 1250 hours.

“The Pilot Act directly addresses the pilot shortage our nation is currently facing and will only increase in the coming decade. As a pilot myself, I commend Rep. Coffman for taking the lead on tackling this issue that will have civilian, commercial and military impact for our country,” said Dr. Jeffrey Forrest, Chair & Professor of the Aviation & Aerospace Science Department at the Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado.

On average, it takes aspiring student pilots up to four years to complete the array of flight training courses necessary to fly commercial aircraft. The cost of completing flight training can also be significant. Depending on a number of factors, it can cost upwards of $80,000 to complete flight training. When these students have completed their course work, however, they typically have flown airplanes for around 500 hours. These “nugget” aviators then have to find a way to continue to fly until they can accumulate the required flight hours. Under current student loan rules, students must begin repayment on student loans within 6 months after graduation, but this is unrealistic while at the same time they are still struggling to acquire the necessary flight time.

“We just have to make it more affordable for flight students to get their ATP license if we ever expect to solve the pilot shortage problem,” said Coffman.

To read full bill text click HERE.

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