• Wed. May 11th, 2022

OWB Pilot Program Offering an Alternative Path in the Airline Industry | News

As the airline industry sees a growing need for pilots, the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport OWB Pilot Program offers a clear path for those interested in a career in commercial airlines.

Created four years ago in partnership with Cape Air, the program was born after a Rooster Booster breakfast attended by Cape Air founder Dan Wolfe and Andrew Bonney, senior vice president of planning.

Bob Whitmer, who was airport manager at the time, said airline executives met with about 40 members of government and business from Owensboro and Daviess County after breakfast to discuss of air service.

“It emerged from the discussion that there is a pilot shortage on the horizon that is really going to cause problems, not just for commercial airlines, but even for the military,” Whitmer said. “I said why not open a flight school here in Owensboro and help meet some of Cape Air’s needs. That’s how it really took off. »

To date, there have been two graduates from the program and approximately five more are currently enrolled.

Sam Dukes is the first person to graduate from the OWB pilot program. He graduated in 2020 and is currently employed as a captain in Cape Air.

“I was actually living overseas at the time, but I had my private license and my dad and mom live about 30 minutes south of Owensboro and they get the paper,” Dukes said. “They had seen an article that Cape Air was looking to get people into this program to get their grades and then come and work for them.”

Dukes, who had already earned his private pilot’s license, said he knew a helicopter pilot and had a friend from high school who wanted to be a Navy pilot, and he thought aviation could offer a interesting career.

He completed the OWB pilot program in 13 months.

“I treated it like a full-time job,” Dukes said. “I was on the plane six to eight hours several days if the weather was good. I think I was probably quite ambitious.

For those without a private pilot’s license, Dukes said they should learn the rules and regulations of flying from a certified flight instructor.

“Most of your time will be with an instructor doing various lessons on the ground, but also air work, and then a bit of the same as you work towards getting your instrument rating and commercial qualifications,” he said. declared.

After earning these ratings, all prospective commercial pilots must log 750 flight hours.

“You can do it a number of ways, but I just picked random airports in the area that I’ve never been to before,” Dukes said. “I traveled a lot with my father; it was fun.”

After completing the program, Dukes went to work for Cape Air as a first officer, flying in the right seat for about nine months before becoming a captain.

Based in Quincy, Illinois, Dukes currently serves Chicago and St. Louis.

“Those are the only two airports we have scheduled operations to from Quincy,” he said. “When I first upgraded I was in the Caribbean on a small island and was just going back and forth between that island and San Juan.”

Bonney said the program has proven beneficial to Cape Air and the community of Owensboro.

“What’s unique about this program and what we’re really proud to bring to Owensboro is that it’s one of the most cost-effective and time-efficient ways to ‘get quality training for a career in the airlines.’

While participants in the program must pay the cost of obtaining their license, which can cost around $70,000, Cape Air will begin reimbursing this amount once the pilot completes the program and becomes an airline captain.

Dukes said the program required a significant financial commitment upfront, and he opted to take out a line of credit on his home to cover expenses.

“I became a captain about nine months ago and that’s when Cape Air started paying off my loans,” Dukes said.

Tristan Durbin, airport manager, said he believes it is important for OWB to promote all forms of aviation, from private to corporate and commercial.

“Currently, we have three students in the program; we had two graduates from the program,” Durbin said. “It’s such a great economic development tool and a very unique program unlike any other program you can find anywhere else in the country.”

Durbin said at least two people moved to Owensboro to participate in the OWB pilot program.

“It’s a real tool and driver of economic development that has a lot of growth opportunities for the community,” he said.

Although the program has an upfront cost, Durbin said there are currently no federal student loans designed for people seeking their commercial pilot’s license.

“You get the training at a huge discount compared to many training programs out there,” Durbin said. “This is a program where there is guaranteed employment with Cape Air as a captain at the end and then repayment of the loan via a time commitment with Cape Air at the end as well. It’s just something something that is really unique and very beneficial for people who want to pursue a career in aviation.