FAA to open two workforce development grant programs

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Notices published in the Federal Register that outlined the programs’ criteria and opened 15-day public-comment periods signal the end of a two-year logjam during which the programs—both created by the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, and each providing $5 million in grants for fiscal 2020—were authorized but remained unimplemented.

The FAA’s inaction on the programs since their creation invoked the ire of many in Congress who expressed their frustration in recent letters to the Department of Transportation and the FAA noting that aviation education, the aircraft maintenance industry, and blunting the impact of the coronavirus pandemic would all benefit from prompt implementation.

On September 9, the FAA announced the public-comment period through September 24 for the Aircraft Pilots Workforce Development Grant Program, for which Congress appropriated $5 million in fiscal 2020 to “create and deliver a training curriculum to address the projected shortages of aircraft pilots.”

The FAA said it plans to follow up with a notice of funding opportunity on or about November 13 for the program that will “expand the pilot workforce and will help high school students receive training to become aerospace engineers or unmanned aircraft systems operators. The program also prepares teachers to train students for jobs in the aviation industry.”

AOPA strongly supports science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, education for high school students and works to advance it through the AOPA High School Initiative, a component of our You Can Fly program, to support and grow the pilot population.

The FAA also announced a comment period until September 23 for the Aviation Maintenance Technical Workers Workforce Development Grant Program, intended “to provide grants to academia and the aviation community to help prepare a more inclusive talent pool of aviation maintenance technicians, to inspire and recruit the next generation of aviation professionals.”

As with the other program, publication of a notice of funding opportunity is expected around November 13.

Under both grant programs, eligible groups may apply for grants from $25,000 to $500,000, the FAA said. See the programs’ websites for details.

Having previously expressed appreciation to the 28 senators and 36 House members who signed onto the letters urging the FAA to set the programs in motion, AOPA Senior Vice President Jim Coon welcomed the agency’s announcements that funding opportunities will soon be available.

“We appreciate this significant step by the FAA and the strong support in Congress for these programs

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