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WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) – chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies – to help alleviate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pilot shortage. This legislation will now be sent to President Trump to be signed into law.

NOAA pilots are charged with collecting airborne environmental data, such as real-time weather data on hurricanes. This legislation creates an aviation accession training program for the Commissioned Officer Corps of NOAA to prepare students for commissioned service as pilots. Functioning similar to Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at many universities, this program was designed in coordination with Kansas State Polytechnic due to their expertise in training pilots.

“As the chief appropriator for NOAA, it has been a priority to address the pilot shortage that utilizes Kansas’ strong aviation programs, and I’m pleased this legislation will head to the president’s desk to be signed into law,” said Sen. Moran. “In addition, Kansas State Polytechnic has a history of producing well-trained pilots and can create a pipeline of NOAA pilots ready to fly in a wide-range of weather conditions to deliver critical data to scientists on the ground.”

"Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus is really excited about the potential for a NOAA ROTC program focused on pilot training,” said Kansas State Polytechnic CEO and Dean Alysia Starkey. “Training pilots is one of our core missions and the opportunity created by this bill would provide a high-quality corps of fully-funded students who are ready for university-level flight training in a variety of weather conditions.”

“The dedicated men and women of the NOAA Corps provide the scientific and operational expertise for NOAA to meet its mission to protect lives and property every day,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “They deserve the level of personal and professional support that is rightfully afforded to other uniformed services.”

“We’re grateful to the Administration and Congress for recognizing the immense value that NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps officers provide each and every day,” said NOAA Rear Adm. Michael J. Silah, director of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO). “This reauthorization act will ensure that the NOAA Corps will be able to support NOAA and the nation more effectively than ever before and we look forward to establishing a pipeline for NOAA Corps aviators in the State of Kansas.” 

Sen. Moran’s legislation, S. 2910, was included in S. 2981, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps Amendments Act of 2020, which passed the Senate on November 16. Additionally, Sen. Moran’s FY2021 Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill included $1.5 million within NOAA to support programs aimed at recruiting and training pilots for service in the Commissioned Officer Corps of NOAA.

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