Back to School with ALPA's Education Committee

Special Guest Commentary By F/O Costas Sivyllis (United), Chairman, ALPA Education Committee

Those first signs of fall are in the air, and that means it's time for students to head back to school. Hopefully, this summer included vacations and time with family, friends, fun, and even airplane rides. As summer ends, ALPA's Education Committee is busy preparing for the new school year. We have big plans to inspire the next generation of airline pilots and give them the resources, tools, and career advice they need to pursue a job in the airline industry.

Inspiring the Next Generation

Meeting with elementary, middle, and high school students across the country allows us to promote our profession to those who may not realize how attainable a career as an airline pilot can be. When we meet with students, we are excited to share our love of aviation and talk about our experiences as professional airline pilots. A career as an airline pilot is not only exciting and adventurous, but one where you become a part of a legacy that has fascinated the world since Orville and Wilbur Wright first flew in 1903. There is no other profession where flying from city to city, vacation spot to vacation spot, is "work." When we first meet with future aviators, we tell them that the first step is to take a discovery flight at your local airport! Take the controls of a single-engine propeller airplane and feel what it's like to leave earth's bounds. Fair warning: You may get hooked—like all of us!

So, You Want to Be a Pilot?

Once you’ve decided to start your journey, the path to becoming an airline pilot has a few different trails—even for school-aged aviators. Among some of those options: You could attend an accredited, four-year aviation degree program or join the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) as a military cadet and become a military aviator before coming to the airlines. The civilian route through college has more opportunities than ever before, with many airlines being present on campus year-round and offering pathways or career programs to help you reach your end goal. You'll experience a unique path flying small propeller planes, to small jets, to big jets. Gaining a mentor through this process is a critical step, so you can have someone to reach out to and keep your pulse on industry trends.

 Currently, ALPA has 11 formalized professional development/mentoring programs at the collegiate level—Aviation Collegiate Education (ACE) clubs—and visits more than a dozen other universities, reaching more than 2,000 collegiate aviators to help bridge the gap between the classroom and the flight deck. The first ACE Club was established 10 years ago by students who today lead the Association’s Education Committee. The program, which has 10 core volunteers who were former ACE Club members, has proven effective in preparing collegiate aviators for their careers and grooming future ALPA pilot volunteers.

It Doesn’t End with a Degree

As you begin your career post-graduation, that certainly won't be the last time you hear from the Education Committee. Our goal is support you until you are an airline pilot yourself—and we hope you become a mentor with us when you do! Reaching the cockpit of an airliner requires anywhere from 750 (military) to 1,000 (aviation college) to 1,500 hours total flight time, depending on the path you took. So even after college, you’ll likely need more flying to earn your airline transport pilot (ATP) license. While there are check rides along the way and lots of studying and dedication, if it's your passion, it won't feel like work. Time-building is a necessary part of gaining experience to become a first officer. Such jobs may include flight instructor, flying charter, aerial photography, and many other unique piloting areas. If in the military, you'll be gaining your necessary experience as you fly missions.

Get Ready for Takeoff: You’re Cleared to Dream

ALPA’s Education Committee launched “Cleared to Dream” to ensure that we secure the next generation of pilots. Cleared to Dream focuses on outreach activities to students of all ages—from sending ALPA pilots into primary and secondary schools to inspire students to consider a career as a pilot to directly mentoring aspiring aviators who are enrolled in collegiate aviation programs.

Visit Cleared to Dream to learn more—including scholarship opportunities, our “Day in the Life of a Pilot” series, training pathways to the flight deck, and information on ALPA’s university programs. Most importantly, we can connect you with an airline pilot mentor to guide you through what at times may seem like a confusing path.

Current ALPA Pilots

To any of our current ALPA pilots who have a son or daughter (or extended family and friends!) interested in becoming a pilot, send them our way! And if you have what it takes to volunteer and help inspire the next generation—even just by visiting a local school on career day—visit the Cleared to Dream website or contact us directly at for more information.

Connect with Us This School Year!

If you are active in the aviation community, perhaps you’ve already connected with us—this past year, we attended major aviation conferences; science, technology, engineering, and math events; and local aviation days. And we plan to do it all again this (and every) year, so come see us. Look for the Cleared to Dream booth—with pilots in uniform—at these events and many more!

October 2019

 *Denotes ALPA Membership Committee event.

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