PLTW Alumnus Strives to Earn Wings Through Innovative Aviation Program

At a recent PLTW event held at LIFT Academy on the campus of the Indianapolis International Airport, Republic Airways Chief Administrative Officer Matt Koscal explained to the audience of teachers and PLTW Team Members that the aviation workforce shortage is a national security issue, with a shortage of commercial airline pilots and 41 percent of current pilots retiring in the next 10 years. 

Flight training is expensive and tends to draw from a small pool of talent. Republic Airways launched LIFT (Leadership in Flight Training) Academy to open up aviation career opportunities to a more diverse pool of candidates. LIFT Academy trains students to become commercial airline pilots who are then guaranteed pilot jobs with Republic Airways following successful completion. Students must have graduated from high school, be at least 18 years old, and be a U.S. citizen.

While at LIFT Academy, students train on Diamond DA40 and DA42 single-engine and multi-engine training aircrafts. The program can take up to three years to complete; training averages about one year with two years of flight time as a Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI). The program provides a clear career path to becoming a paid CFI at LIFT Academy, during which time participants complete the required flight time to become a pilot with Republic Airways.

PLTW alumnus Michael Bruce is currently training at LIFT Academy and credits PLTW’s Principles of Engineering (POE) course with igniting his passion for aviation. In 2014, Michael took a backpacking trip to the Rocky Mountains, which inspired his interest in travel. He began to think that a career in aviation could be an avenue for exploring beautiful places all over the world, but he did not really believe that career path could be an option for him – until he discovered PLTW Engineering.

“By seeing the actual concepts of aviation brought to life in POE, it made aviation a tangible reality that I could begin to understand and appreciate,” he said.

Michael took POE, his first PLTW class, his junior year of high school. He was familiar with many of the concepts in the course from his physics classes, but POE brought those concepts to life.

“For the first time, I was able to visualize the ideas I had learned in real-world situations,” he said.

Following high school graduation, Michael knew that he wanted to become a commercial airline pilot and was committed to making his dream a reality.

“I was drawn to LIFT by two main things: its affordability and its commitment to students,” he said.

He explained that LIFT Academy sets a flat fee for students to achieve their certifications, as opposed to the typical hourly rates of flight training.

“They are heavily focused on the growth of the students,” he said. “Students are still held to a certain track of achievement, but the LIFT Academy’s main goal is to see progress in each lesson unique to each student’s strengths and weaknesses.”

At LIFT Academy, students complete self studies prior to each lesson, which are used in practice and reinforced during each student’s time with the instructor. They have daily flight times, flying about five times per week. Flight blocks include time in a flight simulator or in an airplane. Successful students end the training program with a Private Pilot License, Instrument Rating, a Commercial Certificate, a Multi-Engine Rating, a Certified Flight Instructor Certificate, and a Certified Flight Instructor-Instrument Certificate.

“My overall career goals are to continue to grow in all aspects of the world of aviation through further training and to enter the commercial airline industry,” Michael said. “With these goals in mind, I plan to be an established captain at Republic Airways within the next 10 years.”

Michael credits his POE course for setting him on this career path.

“PLTW was what made the world of aviation a tangible reality for me,” he said. “This made my dream seem like even more of a possibility as I saw the concepts in a way that I could fully understand and, in doing so, led me to seek out ways I could enter this field.”

In LIFT Academy, Michael has “found an institution that’ll give me a direct line to my dreams of flying commercially at an affordable cost.”

“Through this unique style of training, my career goals are becoming a reality quicker than I could’ve ever dreamed,” he said.

In addition to LIFT Academy, Republic Airways is working throughout the state of Indiana to address the aviation workforce shortage by connecting to classrooms as early as elementary school. Republic Airways brings the LIFT Lab, a mobile flight simulator, to schools and events; offers tours and a shadowing program; and facilitates events like the one recently hosted by PLTW to educate teachers on opportunities available to their students after graduation.

Republic Airways is a PLTW Engaged Partner. Together, Republic Airways and PLTW provide students and teachers with exclusive access to aviation-related career learning experiences.