Purdue shows off technology, hoping to recruit and help fill ongoing pilot shortage

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University showcases their unique aerospace technology.

When you enter the Niswong Aviation Technology Building, you will find three large flight simulators for the school’s students. These include the A320, a fully articulated “Hawker 900XP” that mimics movements in flight, and a 737 that replicates most of the Boeing fleet.

That’s very rare, “said Mike Suckow, clinical associate professor and assistant manager in the Department of Aviation Technology. “In the collegial environment, there are maybe five universities in the country that have this level of technology.”

Purdue officials believe the high level of technology helped get their aviation students into the commercial aviation industry. Suckow said many of Purdue’s aviation students got jobs right after graduating.

“Many of our students go straight to the big airlines,” he said.

One student hoping to become a commercial pilot soon is Adam Dunham. The master’s student and flight instructor said he had no background in aviation until his visit to Purdue.

“Four years later, I know how to operate an A320 aircraft,” he said while testing the simulator. “You not only learn how to move a control stick and rotor, but also how the planes work, the systems behind the scenes. How does an airline work? How do you get the ground crew to push the aircraft back while it is communicating with air traffic control? “

Dunham said he has practiced smooth flights, but also flights that mimicked emergencies, such as a flight on board or an engine failure.

“With the growing shortage of pilots and the high demand for pilots, it’s easy to rush the training and say I’ll get to this point and fly the plane. Not only do we teach you to fly, we teach you scenarios and the systems behind the aircraft, and make a truly safe experience for us and future passengers, ”explained Dunham.

At the moment Purdue has around 103 newcomers who have majored as aviation. There were 38 students last year and 78 in the previous year. The school is recruiting for its program to help fill the described shortage of pilots.

“We also work very hard with middle and high schools to raise the base. The industry responded with great compensation packages and they did their job. Now we need to figure out how to increase student awareness that this is a viable career path, ”said Suckow.

Several major airlines have notified CBS4 that they are retiring, including Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and American Airlines.

“Hiring pilots is really a boom or a bankruptcy,” Suckow said. “It’s very cyclical. There are many years when there are extreme attitudes. They ride out their seniority and then you get the extreme retirements. We are in this phase of retirement. “

Purdue professor Jason Cutter said her program also focuses on mental preparation for pilots.

“Flying the plane, physically flying the plane, is a very small part of the job. It’s all the other things that come with it, like how to deal with passengers, how to deal with the crew and the ability to support the crew, ”he said. “One of the changes since 9/11 is that the cockpit door remains locked. So if something happens mid-flight, we as captains react very differently today than we did 30 years ago. It’s a stressful time for everyone in the industry. “

Cutter said that when he was captain he would sometimes get up from his seat and walk up to the person himself. Captains cannot do that.

“Usually they responded to this authority figure of the captain. This option is now off the table. We trust that our cabin crew will take care of it. “

TSA confirms that flight attendants are taking self-defense courses

As of September 21, 2021, the FAA had reported more than 4,000 unruly passengers since the beginning of the year. Of these, more than 3,000 were mask-related incidents resulting from the state’s travel mask mandate that everyone wear face-covering in airports, airplanes, trains, and other public transportation.

CBS4 spoke to the Transportation Security Administration about what it is doing to contain ongoing tensions. TSA Great Lakes Region spokeswoman Jessica Mayle confirmed that approximately 3,000 flight attendants have taken a self-defense course to assist them during the flight.

“It’s a closed environment up there. They don’t have access to many of the tools we would have on the ground in a threatening situation, so we just want to make sure the flight attendants have adequate protection, ”she explained.

Mayle didn’t think Indiana-based flight attendants had attended the course in 2021.