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UND signs agreement with Frontier Airlines for pilot training, job pipeline

Frontier is the latest airline to have established a program with the university, whereby aviation students have the opportunity to interview for a job prior to graduation.

UND Piper.jpg
Piper Archer airctraft, used by UND aviation students. (submitted)
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GRAND FORKS – UND has reached an agreement with Frontier Airlines that aims to help both the airline and the university deal with the pilot shortage.

Frontier is the latest airline to have established a program with the university, whereby aviation students have the opportunity to interview for a job prior to graduation, UND said in a news release. In Frontier’s case, those who get selected train with the airline before heading back to UND to act as advanced flight instructors.

“We are very excited for this new and unique partnership with Frontier Airlines,” said Elizabeth Bjerke, associate dean of UND Aerospace. “Not only are they providing an amazing opportunity for our graduates, they are also partnering with the university to provide training and educational experiences for our faculty and staff in order to keep them proficient and current in advanced aircraft operations.”

Upon a successful interview process with Frontier, students will then have a predetermined, accelerated route to meet training requirements and join the airline’s pilot workforce. According to Kent Lovelace, UND’s director of aviation industry relations, students with 1,000 hours of flight time will go directly to Frontier for training and operating experience.

After they get around 40 hours of operating experience at Frontier, a select number of those in the program will come back to UND and serve as flight instructors in advanced aircraft operations courses.

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Pilots coming back to UND will instruct for 250 hours before resuming their careers at Frontier Airlines. During their time at UND, pilots will retain their benefits and earn a salary equal to what they would earn at Frontier, Lovelace said.

Brad Lambert, vice president of flight operations for Frontier Airlines, said he is thrilled to partner with UND in establishing a career pathway program for pilots.

“This novel agreement will enhance our future pilot pipeline and bring valuable training expertise to the university,” Lambert said. “It’s a true win for both organizations.”

Brett Venhuizen, UND professor of aviation and department chair, said Frontier is also committed to faculty and staff training, which will help bolster UND’s ability to train future airline pilots.

The need for pilots

According to an April 22 ABC report, the pilot shortage stems from several different factors: the requirement to retire at 65 years-of-age, fewer pilots leaving the military, the cost and time it takes to train for the job and thousands of early retirements that happened at the start of the pandemic.

Due to the industry-wide demand for pilots, UND Aerospace has been challenged to keep instructors with the needed experience to teach higher-level “jet transition” courses such as multi-engine systems and advanced aircraft operations — courses that are crucial for students who want to work for major airlines, Lovelace said.

The agreement between Frontier and UND will help ensure there are enough instructors for the advanced courses.

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

Desk: 701-780-1110
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