HBCU Aviation Directors join together to discuss challenges, best practices for students

DOVER, Del. – From pilot shortages to economic challenges, aviation programs are seeing problems across the board, but Delaware State University is paving the way to solve these issues.

“I think this is a historic moment where we are having conversations that probably have never happened before,” Jorge Guerra, Director of Aviation and Safety Program at Florida Memorial University, said.

On Tuesday, DSU held their first HBCU Aviation Directors Joint Conference where directors from these universities discussed problems they’re seeing.

“Of course, we are all struggling when it comes to financial or fiscal abilities and capabilities and opportunities because we just don’t have a whole lot of money to work with,” Michael Hales, Director of Aviation Programs at DSU, said.

“So, we are having a very large pilot shortage as well as technicians and all the other auxiliary professions not in the aviation industry,” Guerra said.

Problems like pilot shortages aren’t something new, but instead accelerated by the pandemic.

“It needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed quickly because it is reaching levels of urgency,” Guerra said.

And with help from airlines, who also attended the discussion, they are optimistic.

“Now, they are reaching out saying we understand some of the challenges you all have in creating the pilot that ultimately we wanna have and so now we want to help you in that endeavor,” Hales said.

Airlines are even taking interest in helping students by paying for flight lab fees and giving them internships.

“That can be inhibitive to a lot of students, especially students of color that come from underprivileged, underserved communities, you know a lot of our students at Delaware State University are first time college students,” Hales said.

And, by working with these HBCU’s they told us it’s not only going to help solve some of the issues in the air, but also bring in more diversity.

“We have good quality students who just need that same opportunity and need someone to seek after them and we are so happy that the airlines are now looking at us as the vehicle to be able to do that,” Hales said.

DSU said one of the practices they shared was how their free Discovery Flight Program is helping to recruit more students. For this program, they allow students to come take airplane rides with them on their dime. This helps to get more students interested in the career.

Guerra said he hopes this event happens again, adding that he’s learned a lot from the other leaders and wants to implement those skills in Florida to draw more students in.

Categories: Delaware, Local News