West Windsor, N.J. – Pilots who earn their associate degrees from the Aviation Flight Technology program at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) will need fewer hours of flight time to earn their Air Transport Pilot Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
According to Joan Jones, Coordinator of MCCC’s Aviation Programs, under the FAA’s recently adopted standards, pilots who fly for a major airline carrier or a regional airline are required to have an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate, which includes a minimum of 1500 hours in the air.
But, in recognition of the comprehensive training that students receive in an accredited associate degree program, the FAA has incorporated an exception into the standards for graduates of programs such as Mercer’s, enabling pilots to obtain a restricted ATP certificate at 1250 hours. If they then earn their bachelor’s degree in aviation from an approved program, the requirement is further reduced to 1000 hours.
“The FAA has recognized that those who complete a rigorous college-based program are better prepared for the challenges of flight,” said Jones, noting that this semester, Mercer has begun training students using an Elite RC1000 training simulator that provides for a wide range of flight situations and is truly state-of-the-art in the industry.
The Elite RC1000, which was purchased through a federal grant and installed at Mercer over the summer, is being used by MCCC’s most advanced students. According to Professor Jerry Kuhl, the simulator is an Advanced Training Device. "It’s the final phase of training for our students in Flight III and Flight IV courses,” he said, adding that students must master multiple skills in earlier classes before they work with this technology.
Jones notes that the new simulator’s instrument panel replaces traditional analog gauges with what’s known in the industry as a glass cockpit. “This simulator mirrors what students will find in larger aircrafts when they move on to professional careers as pilots. It’s the best training they can get in the classroom,” she said.
Chief Flight Instructor Judy Stillwagon notes that the FAA exception provides a substantial economic benefit for MCCC graduates. “Our graduates can be hired faster than those who do not graduate from an approved program,” she said. In addition, MCCC students who transfer to a four-year college and seek the restricted ATP with that college will be able to apply their Mercer classes towards their certificate.