CWU News

CWU Aviation First in Pacific Northwest to Offer New Pilot Certification

Central Washington University’s Department of Aviation has become the first in the Pacific Northwest approved to authorize graduates for a Restricted Airline Transport Pilot (R-ATP) certificate. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave its final approval this week to CWU.

“We went through an application process with the FAA, where they reviewed our entire aviation curriculum,” says CWU aviation professor Jason Underhill. “They determined that the program qualifies for the Restricted-ATP. There are only a select few schools across the country that have received this authorization.”

The R-ATP allows CWU graduates to become airline pilots with 1,000 hours total flight experience rather than 1,500 hours required under the ATP certificate required of other candidates. The 33 percent reduction in total flight time will be a significant cost saving to CWU students. In addition, the R-ATP reduces the required age for certification from 23 to 21. 

“The entire faculty here fully recognized the importance of having the Restricted-ATP authorization for our graduates,” Underhill adds. “It really does give them a leg up.”

Pilots graduating from higher education aviation programs, along with those coming from the military, are the most likely candidates to be eligible to receive R-ATP certification, Underhill points out.

The FAA authorization allows CWU aviation students who have graduated within the past five years to receive the R-ATP certification. They can apply for it here.

“That’s a really big plus for all of our alums who have been trying to build up enough flight time to get a job with the airlines,” Underhill adds. “The FAA recognized that the structured programs at universities—like CWU—and colleges provide better learning environments and the best aviation education, which result in more qualified pilots when they’re finished.”

After completing their CWU professional pilot degree, students will still typically need about 700-more flight hours before receiving R-ATP certification. They will then become in demand by regional air carriers.  

“The baby boomer-generation of pilots are hitting age 65, the mandatory retirement age at the airline level,” Underhill says. “A lot of those retirements are at the major airlines. Those replacement pilots will, likely, come from the regional airline level. When those pilots move on to the major airlines there will be a huge shortage of pilots for those regional slots.”

The R-ATP was developed in accordance with revised FAA regulations that have been put into place over the last five years.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1487,

April 8, 2014