Transportation

Trump admin launches program to help veterans become commercial pilots

The Trump administration is launching a new initiative designed to address a U.S. pilot shortage in the United States.

The Department of Transportation announced on Thursday that it will create a pilot program to help military veterans get trained and certified as commercial airline pilots.

"It's an excellent example of this administration's continued commitment to bringing veterans home, while simultaneously trying to address a real problem that we have, that is, the pilot shortage and getting pilots in the pipeline," said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), a general aviation pilot.

Graves said the program could also inform how lawmakers address the 1,500-hour training rule for commercial airline pilots, which Congress raised after the deadly 2009 Colgan Air crash.

There has been an effort underway in the Senate to ease the standards by allowing alternative ways for pilots to earn training credit. But the move has been met with resistance from Democrats, who worry it will make the skies less safe.

The battle has been heating up at a time when the demand for air travel has been surging. The Regional Airline Association estimates that there will be a shortage of 19,000 pilots in the U.S. by 2020.

"This has already been a factor in the cancellation of air service to several rural communities," said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

The three-year project will provide financial support for veterans who are not already military pilots to receive the training they need to become certified commercial pilots.

The Transportation Department hopes to have arrangements with flight schools and veterans enrolled in training programs by the middle of next year, Chao said.

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