Aerosim Flight Academy in Florida, as well as Coast Aviation and Sierra Academy in California, will offer Boeing's new ab initio Pilot Development Program to airlines through the flight schools' partnerships with Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen. While the program is initially aimed at airlines in regions such as Asia and the Middle East, where the demand for new pilots is the highest, Jeppesen is ready to work with US airlines as well, said Boeing Program director David Wright. He also said that the program is aimed at providing the company's latest solution to the world's looming pilot shortage.

And while the ab initio program is primarily geared to work with airline customers, Wright foresees that the new course could also be structured for self-sponsored cadets.

"The US does see demand, but they are not at the point where Asia is now," Wright elaborated. "The program right now is primarily to work with an airline. We see that we can leverage the airline experience through our relationship with the customer to help select and sponsor those cadets. The program could also be structured for self-sponsored cadets, but it is not at this time. After the airline customer program is sponsored, we will be looking rapidly at a program that is geared to a self-sponsored cadet."

Boeing describes its Pilot Development Program being offered to airline customers as one designed to provide the essential training an airline needs to help meet the rising demand for qualified pilots. The program takes cadet pilots through initial screening, ab initio training bridge and type rating training (initially at flight schools partnered with Jeppesen) at Boeing training facilities around the world, with students graduating with an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL). The slogan for Boeing's solution to providing a solution to the pilot pipeline issue is dubbed "From Street to Right Seat."

One fly in the ointment for the US is that the Pilot Development Program encompasses approximately 250 hours, well short of the FAA's 1500-hours of flight time requirement for First Officer candidates to qualify for taking the ATP written exam.

"Regarding the 1500-hour rule, we understand that there is a need there," Wright pointed out. "We would be looking to work with that potential airline or potential partner to fill that gap. But it is not a part of our standard program right now."

"What industry needs to do is to address the pilot shortage issue," Wright summed up. "We agree with that, and that is why we have taken a whole global look at this problem. We believe that the problem is going to be with us for a while, and we are going to be a part of that solution. We agree that it is going to take an industry approach to this shortage issue, because it is a whole industry problem."