The professional aeronautics certification (PAC) is a two-year accelerated program designed for traditional college students and returning-adults that includes both ground courses and flight training for private-pilot certification, instrument-flight rating, commercial-pilot licensure, and flight instructor certification.
The program’s ground school will be held at Madison College’s Truax campus and taught by University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer Dr. Hannah Silber, Ph.D. The flight school will be managed and taught by Wisconsin Aviation’s Flight School, located just north of the campus on the East Ramp at Dane County Regional Airport.
“Aviation is a critically important field fostering economic growth and job creation, as well as sustaining international trade and tourism,” said Bryan Woodhouse, vice president of corporate and regional affairs for the college. “Madison College is pleased to partner with Wisconsin Aviation to assist in attracting and training qualified pilots for this vital industry.”
Over the two-year period, enrolled students will spend approximately 20 total hours per week in the program. This will include ground school, flight training, and home study, and upon completion, students can be hired as instructor pilots. Students can expect another 18-24 months of instruction and accruing flight hours needed to work for commercial airline operations.
Dr. Chris Johnson, assistant professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, is the program’s developer and will oversee its management. Johnson received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012, and then worked there in various teaching and research roles while also building the foundation of this program.
Johnson says demand for pilots is high and will be for the foreseeable future. “This talent shortage is expected to persist. Airlines are hiring like crazy, and there are not enough pilots to fulfill demand.”
The program will leverage Embry-Riddle’s expertise to build the certification program here in Wisconsin. “For training, we will use the Cirrus SR20 aircraft because it’s one of the most advanced trainers on the market,” Johnson said. “We will use advanced simulation and virtual-reality trainers to provide cost-effective, robust training experiences that would be unsafe or impossible to learn in a real cockpit.”
The certification program will offer nighttime courses and flexible flight-training schedules, allowing students to simultaneously pursue a degree of their choice or work part-time during training.
Graduates will begin their professional flight career two years before graduates of four-year programs such as Embry-Riddle. “Students will spend less than half the money and half the time compared to schools like Embry-Riddle,” says Johnson. “They’ll gain a world-class education with every bit of the rigor.”