US Customs & Border Protection Hires Student Pilots From University Of North Dakota As Pilot Shortage Solution


November 29, 2017 – The University of North Dakota is offering new pathways for student pilots to enter into the world of Airborne Law Enforcement through US Customs and Border Protection. The students who will be given opportunities to enter both fixed and rotor wing fields will find themselves gaining employment with flexible hours to continue their college aspirations.

Members of US Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations posing in front of one of the agency’s AS350 B3 helicopters – Ryan Mason Photo

The Air and Marine Operations (AMO) section of US Customs and Border Protection launched this program to recruit students exclusively from the University of North Dakota (UND). Under this new, one of a kind program, sophomore and junior students will learn the foundation of Federal Law Enforcement while they continue their studies at the UND. As part of AMO’s mission to detect, sort, track, intercept and apprehend criminals using sophisticated aviation techniques, these students will find themselves learning much more than the civil or commercial field they were once focusing on.

“We constantly search for ways to assist our students in their careers and professional development, while providing solutions for real-world challenges such as the current pilot shortage,” said UND Aerospace Assistant Dean Ken Polovitz. “At UND Aerospace, we go beyond training and educating pilots to prepare individuals for leadership in government, business, and industry.”

As the groundwork for this new program is being laid out, the AMO Pathways Program will provide up to fifteen students the opportunity to work as aviation enforcement trainees. These students will be hired as federal employees under USCBP and will be afforded flexible full or part-time schedules. Their responsibilities under this program will include assisting with developing operational plans for interdiction missions, interfacing with state and local law enforcement officials, and performing security liaison duties.

US Custom and Border Protection UH-60 – Ryan Mason Photo

After graduating and successfully completing a polygraph, the trainees will then be offered the option to convert to aviation enforcement agents (AEA) in Grand Forks or other AMO locations. Upon the accrual of one thousand flight hours, AEAs will then be eligible to apply to become an air interdiction agent (AIA). AMO operates at some seventy-four locations across the US with over eighteen hundred employees which include seven hundred pilots in their fleet of over two hundred aircraft. These aircraft include fixed-wing aircraft such as the P-3 Orion, the C-12/B200 and MQ-9 Predator B along with rotor-wing aircraft such as the UH-60, AS350, EC120 and MEA helicopters.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for aviation students to earn a part-time salary while being trained for a challenging and rewarding career to serve and protect the American people,” said Christopher Wiyda, deputy director for AMO’s northern region. “These young aviators are our nation’s future experts in airborne and maritime law enforcement, and can earn over $100,000 annually after two years of full-time service.”

To be eligible for the Pathways Program, an applicant must be a current UND Aerospace student, have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and pass a background investigation and drug test. Approximately 80 students applied for the program in October 2017 and, after structured interviews, 15 candidates were selected. The names of the first group of student trainees are expected to be announced in December 2017.

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