June 19, 2015

The newly revitalized aviation program at Alabama’s Auburn University recently hosted its inaugural aviation camp, introducing 23 high school students to an array of industry career opportunities, including those in business aviation.

From June 7 to 12, students participated in several aviation-related activities, including a behind-the-scenes tour of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), visits to a GE Aviation engine component manufacturing facility and the Tuskegee Airmen Museum, and tours of Auburn’s air transportation department and the flight department for Atlanta-based media group Cox Enterprises.

On campus, the students observed wind tunnel testing at Auburn’s aerospace engineering center, and took the controls of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operated by Auburn’s newly created UAS flight school.

“We didn’t want to simply promote flying,” explained Bill Hutto, director of Auburn University Regional Airport and the new Auburn University Aviation Center. “One of the primary goals of the camp was to introduce students to several available career paths in the aviation industry.”

“Similar university aviation programs sometimes forget about business aviation,” said chief pilot of Cox Flight Operations Sandy Miller, who hosted the tour that included an opportunity to examine the company’s Gulfstream G280 and G-V aircraft. “This visit offered the chance to propel our industry to the forefront of the students’ consideration.”

More than 4,000 students have graduated from Auburn’s aviation programs, which have roots dating back more than 80 years. Though threatened with closure in May 2013 due to a lack of tenured staff, school officials reversed that decision two months later following an outpouring of support from industry stakeholders and aviation program alumni, including NBAA staff members and personnel from NBAA Member Companies.

In July 2014, university officials announced the formation of the Aviation Center to work with the faculty in developing aviation curricula and to oversee flight-training operations. Hutto noted the aviation camp offered the chance for the center to “expand our outreach efforts in aviation and aerospace, and expose students to many different types of aviation opportunities.”

Former U.S. Air Force C-130 pilot and Auburn lecturer James Birdsong served as director of the camp, which also featured a visit from an ExpressJet CRJ200 regional aircraft piloted by Capt. Matt West, a 2001 graduate of Auburn’s earlier aviation management program. Students also had the opportunity to take an introductory flight in one of the school’s Cessna 172 trainers.