UD Aviation program making grads marketable in tough economy - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UD Aviation program making grads marketable in tough economy

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- Economic troubles in the aviation industry are hitting eastern Iowa. Executives of the world's largest airline, Delta, say passenger revenues have fallen 20% in the first four months of this year, compared with last.

After just a year in town, Delta is pulling out of the Dubuque Regional Airport, effective August 31st. Delta has also cut flights at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids. Flights will no longer go to and from Cincinnati or Atlanta, but Delta has added a flight to Detroit.

With the recent trouble, some pilots are wondering how their carreers will hold up in the near future.

Thomas Lamers is going to be a sophomore this fall in the University of Dubuque's aviation program, hoping to eventually move into a commercial carrier.

"It all depends on how the economy goes, and what they're offering, but my goal is commercial," Lamers said.

UD instructors say they're concerned too, which is unusual in a program that usually boasts nearly 100% placement within six months of graduation.

"I think we'll see more part time flying versus full time flying for a while. We used to have students the last few years graduate, go right into the regional airlines, go into corporate cockpits...I don't see those opportunities for our students right now," UD Director of Aviation Steven Accinelli said.

But in a tough market, UD is making aviation grads more marketable, purchasing ten new advanced aircraft with cockpit technology identical to commercial and corporate models.

"If you were flying with a regional jet, or a new boeing or airbus, it would look just like that," Accinelli said.

"I think it'll help me to have more experience in the glass, and i'll just know what to do when I get to similar ones in the commercial," Lamers said.

By keeping up with technology, instructors say UD grads will continue to be top candidates when the industry cycles back up.

"Generally, when it starts turning up, there's a lot of demand, and we can't produce enough pilots fast enough." Accinelli said.

"Eventually all the pilots that are 65 are going to be retiring, so jobs will be opeing up eventually," Lamers said.

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