The Victoria County Commissioners Court is backing a proposal to create a flight school at the Victoria Regional Airport amid a nationwide airline pilot shortage.

County leaders first heard from University of Houston-Victoria President Bob Glenn and Provost Chance Glenn about a flight school it wants to hold at the Victoria Regional Airport. State funds would need to be allocated to the aviation program for it to come to fruition, meaning the commissioners only had the power to voice their support for it on Monday.

The UHV administrators estimated the program would cost $1.2 million in its first year of existence. They projected the state could provide over $1.1 million in funds for the program’s first year.

In a presentation to commissioners, the provost said a flight school would address a nationwide pilot shortage. A recent study from consulting firm Oliver Wyman forecasted a shortage of 30,000 pilots among North American airlines by 2032.

According to the provost, U.S. airlines are using partnerships with colleges and universities as a solution to the shortage. The Federal Aviation Administration requires commercial pilots to hold a bachelor’s degree. Aviation programs from six institutions in Texas offer bachelor’s degrees.

“(Airlines) are finding that connecting with four-year institutions is a particular pathway,” Chance Glenn said.

Two commercial flights depart and arrive in Victoria five days a week thanks to a partnership between SkyWest and United Airlines. Still, the airspace in the region can accommodate a flight school, the provost said.

“The airspace where we are provides a great opportunity for training in a relatively uncrowded airspace different than some of the other institutions in and around bigger cities,” he said.

The provost also cited the 1-mile runway and operational air traffic control tower at the Victoria airport as additional benefits for a new flight school.

In other business, the Commissioners Court agreed to support a proposed 60-bed, 45,000-square foot inpatient mental health center on the campus of Citizens Medical Center in Victoria. The Gulf Bend Center is leading the effort to bring new mental health care resources to the Crossroads.

GBC Director Jeff Tunnell said his organization is requesting $35 million from the state for the construction of the facility.

The proposed facility would be run by a third-party company, Tunnell said, because neither Gulf Bend nor Citizens has the expertise needed to treat patients with mental health issues.

Leo Bertucci is a Report for America corps member who covers energy and environment for the Victoria Advocate.

Energy and Environment Reporter

Before moving to the Crossroads, Leo Bertucci studied journalism and political science at Western Kentucky University.