This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Regional Airline-University Airline Transport Pilot Bridge Programs: An Examination of Student Perceptions




Birdsong, James

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Aviation has been described as the physical internet, connecting communities, regions, and nations around the globe. Living in the age of airplanes, we often take for granted the ability to jump on a plane and travel around the world, moving easily between countries, cultures, and economies. While globalization is increasing the demand for air travel, the labor supply of U.S. pilots is decreasing because of new pilot certification requirements and many pilots reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65. To meet the demand for pilots, many airlines and collegiate flight programs are partnering to create employment bridges that span the flight hour gap between the collegiate flight program and professional airline cockpit. These partnerships take the form of a regional airline-university bridge agreement and offer students an opportunity to be on an airline’s payroll while working for the university as a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). By anonymously surveying collegiate aviation flight students from Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) accredited collegiate aviation programs, this study identified characteristics of regional-airline university bridge agreements preferred by collegiate aviation flight students. Student orientation towards bridge agreements, and the perceived importance of flow-through from regional to major airlines, based on academic classification, Restricted Airline Transport Pilot (R-ATP) eligibility, total flight hours, and Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) status was examined. Results will help inform the discussion regarding regional airline-university bridge agreements and policies that promote a stable pilot production pipeline.