Aviation program at Cal Baptist University trains people to work in the pilot seat

Leticia Juarez Image
Thursday, August 24, 2023
Program at Cal Baptist University trains people for the pilot seat
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Southern California has one of just a few schools in the state to offer an aviation degree. Cal Baptist University is helping to meet the soaring demands to help get more pilots off the ground.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Summer air travel is back at an all-time high and the need for airline pilots keeps growing. If you're considering becoming one, Southern California has one of just a few schools in the state to offer an aviation degree. It also offers special incentives for veterans.

Chris May spent 24 years in the Air Force and Air National Reserve before retiring. However, it was the Aviation Science Program at Cal Baptist University that put him in the pilot seat.

"When you pull that yoke back and take off in that plane, you're doing something that no human is really supposed to be able to do and you are flying just like the birds," said May.

CBU is one of only a handful of schools in California to offer aviation degrees. The school is trying to meet the soaring demands for qualified airline pilots.

"Aviation is expecting up to 8,000 pilots, the need for 8,000 pilots this year alone. Over the next 15 years that number is going to increase," said Dr. Phil van Haaster, CBU Dean of the College of Engineering

According to a report from the Government Accountability Office and data from the FAA, while the supply of pilots is growing, new airline pilot certificates dropped between 2016 and 2017 and stayed low until last year when the number jumped back up to nearly 10,000 new certificates issued.

The aviation program at CBU not only gets pilots off the ground - they also help in training other skill sets such as airport operations managers to industry leaders.

The program currently has 200 students enrolled; of that number, 31 are veterans. The school participates in the yellow ribbon program, helping vets like May earn their wings.

"A veteran can come to CBU; they can apply their veteran benefits as well as the CBU grant and the Department of Defense matching grant and get up to 94% of the aviation flight degree covered."

May is in the middle of instrument training and has two years left in the program. When he is ready to take the controls, it won't be for a commercial airline but for a higher calling.

"I really felt God calling me to be a missionary pilot, which involves taking people and materials wherever he needs it much like Maui right now," said May.