Sunday, May 8, 2016

Aviation department announces exciting changes

Aviation training at Auburn University is getting revamped.

The center for aviation currently housed in the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business is in the process of moving to the newly established University College.

The University College will be a new college for students in the freshman exploratory major and will also house the Interdisciplinary majors.

Bill Hutto, director of the Auburn University Regional Airport, said the change has not yet been fully established but will most likely happen for the fall 2017 semester.

“The main benefit is that flight students get a broader and more in-depth education,” Hutto said. “This is a cooperative effort. The College of Business has been great, but everyone is focusing on what’s best for the students at Auburn.”

Earle Thompson, UAS program manager for the Auburn Aviation Center, said the move would particularly benefit students who want to become professional airline pilots. The required number of hours to earn an Airline Transport Pilot certificate is 1,250, but the move to University College will lower that requirement to 1,000.

“The challenge was the business core takes up a large portion of student’s time,” Thompson said. “This way students can still earn a business minor if they want to.”

Last Thursday, Auburn University President Jay Gogue and Alabama Community College System Chancellor Mark Heinrich signed a memorandum of understanding that marked the beginning of a partnership between the two. 

The plan is to combine the two aviation programs to enhance aviation training.

“The agreement is not limited to aviation, but it is the focus,” Hutto said. “For example, if you are studying aircraft mechanics, part of the agreement will make it easier for a two-year system to finish a four-year degree in aviation management.”

Hutto said this allows students who can’t come to Auburn out of high school to take the same courses at a community college and then finish the rest of their degree with the University.

“We are also looking into a dual enrollment program for high school students,” Hutto said.

James Birdsong, lecturer in the College of Business, said Auburn needed to put more aviation into the aviation curriculum.

“It will help Auburn grads become more competitive,” Birdsong said. “The demand [for careers in aviation management] will be exploding over the next 10 years. We are positioning ourselves to meet that demand.”

Hutto said the new program structure will allow more flexibility for students wishing to take a variety of aviation courses.

“For example airport management,” Hutto said. “It fell out of the curriculum because there wasn’t enough room. Now we can teach that, corporate aviation, unmanned aircraft systems..."

Aviation management positions such as air traffic controllers will soon be in high demand, according to Birdsong.

“Those jobs right now are done by people from the baby boomer generation,” Birdsong said. “Soon they will all be retiring, and those are good-paying jobs.”  

Thompson said the Federal Aviation Administration is constantly updating and changing rules so Auburn University strives to stay on top of those changes.

“We want to enable people to fly but in the correct way,” Thompson said.   

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