Waterloo partners to train next generation of aviators as possible global pilot shortage looms

Monday, November 6, 2017

The University of Waterloo will partner with a special agency of the United Nations to offer an introductory course on aviation that anyone in the world can take for free.

ICAO logo.Waterloo’s agreement with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) comes as a recent study from CAE that projected that an increase in airline passengers is expected to double the size of the commercial aviation industry over the next 20 years. There are not enough pilots trained or training to meet that demand. UWaterloo has the largest university-level aviation program in Canada.

“The aviation program at Waterloo is only 10 years old, yet it has quickly become the leading program of its kind in the country. I am proud that our faculty and students at Waterloo will help establish the next generation of professionals to fulfill global needs and demand,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of Waterloo, who was in Montreal for the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Waterloo and ICAO. “I’m excited for the future of aviation at Waterloo and pleased to see this partnership with a special agency of the United Nations flourish.”

The partnership involves the Fundamentals of the Air Transport System (FATS) e-learning course. Suzanne Kearns, a professor in Waterloo’s aviation program a vice-chair of ICAO’s Next Generation of Aviation Professionals (NGAP) program designed it. The pioneering course can be taken without a direct connection between the learner and the instructor, which makes it accessible to anyone anywhere who has an interest in aviation.

Suzanne Kearns“This new partnership represents an important first step toward addressing the shortage of highly-skilled personnel facing the aviation industry,” said Fang Liu, secretary-general of ICAO. “Providing greater access to affordable quality training is key to attracting, educating and retaining the next generation of aviation professionals.”

The course contains nine modules covering air law, aircraft, operations, navigation, airports, security, environment, accidents and safety. Each narrated module ranges from 45 to 90 minutes in duration, and profiles aviation professionals working within that area. A combination of imagery, videos, interactive cases and problems are incorporated to explore sector-related matters.

“With such need for the next generation of aviation professionals, this industry offers a variety of exciting career opportunities. However, young people may be intimidated by the cost of training or just not know about the many diverse careers that exist in the industry,” said Kearns, who teaches in Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment. “I hope that this course helps the next generation of aviation professionals find the path to a rewarding career in the growing aviation sector.”

The new course will be offered for free on the ICAO website late this year. Students can earn an electronic certificate with ICAO and Waterloo appellation when they pass the exam, which costs $100 USD to write.


  • Free online course titled “Fundamentals of the Air Transport System”
  • Course represents a partnership between ICAO and the University of Waterloo
  • 9 modules of content, each ranging from 40 to 90 minutes in duration, all free to complete
    • Those wishing to access the exam can pay a fee of $100 USD and, upon passing the exam, will be issued an ICAO/Waterloo Certificate of Completion
  • See the “Fundamentals of the Air Transport System” online course flyer (PDF)
  • "Fundamentals of the Air Transport System" e-learning course is now available on the ICAO website (registration required)
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