Sky's the limit: WI Sen. Baldwin wants vets in the pilot's seat

Eric Dehm
August 27, 2018 - 9:34 am

USMC photo by Cpl. Lia Gamero


Military pilots have long comprised a significant percentage of commercial airline and transport pilots. It's a logical career path, as they leave the service with some of the best flight training and, like most veterans, have a proven track record of performing under incredibly stressful conditions. 

Consider the two most recent high-profile acts of heroism in the airline industry: On April 17, 2018, Southwest flight 1380's engine exploded and it was former Navy pilot Tammi Jo Shults landing the aircraft without further incident. Nine years earlier, it was Air Force vet Sully Sullenberger guiding US Airways flight 1549 to a safe landing in the Hudson River after his plane lost power in both engines.

Is it a coincidence that both pilots served in the military before moving on to airline careers? Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) doesn't think so. In fact, she believes strongly that vets, and not just those who served as pilots, are uniquely suited to the high-stress environment of the commercial cockpit. 

It's for this reason that she's teamed up with Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) to introduce the American Aviator Act, which aims to help veterans get the required flight training by offering federal grants to flight schools that recruit and enroll vets, something she sees as benefitting all involved.

"This is one of those sort of 'win-win-win' situations," Baldwin said during an appearance on the Morning Briefing radio show. "Because we have a severe projected shortage in commercial airline pilots. A lot of folks are reaching their retirement age and so the federal government, from that perspective is looking at 'what can we do' to ensure that aviation remains robust and safe and the best people (are) in those jobs."

She says the bi-partisan legislation has support in Congress and she's confident it will get passed and is hoping it will be included in the upcoming FAA authorization. If it is passed, Baldwin and Hoeven see it as leading to a boon for the airlines while opening up a new career field to vets who thought flying in general, let alone for a living, was nothing but a pipe dream.

"Military aviators have a pretty expedited path into commercial airline aviation so they really do follow a very different track," Baldwin said. "But this is aimed at military veterans who have not had prior training but would like to look at and settle on a career in aviation." 

The full Morning Briefing interview with Senator Tammy Baldwin, focusing on several items including the American Aviator Act, BRAVE Act and more, is available below.

To listen later, click share and select "Download" from the available options.

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