July 7, 2014

Auburn University is creating a new aviation center, which will oversee the school’s flight training operation and work in conjunction with the Harbert College of Business to strengthen the school’s existing professional flight management and aviation management degree programs. The center will also offer students additional opportunities to interact with industry representatives in order to determine their own career paths.

“Our aim is to apply an interdisciplinary approach toward melding together aviation interests throughout other departments at Auburn and expand the school’s ability to support the ongoing development of our state’s growing aerospace industry,” said Bill Hutto, director of Auburn University Regional Airport and the incoming director of the new aviation center.

The announcement of the new aviation center comes about a year after Auburn officials, amid outcry from current and former students, reversed a decision to outsource flight training and “sunset” its aviation management programs.

Auburn alumnus and United Airlines pilot Jason Mohrman helped spearhead efforts last year to save the aviation school. In response to the July 1 announcement, he noted that a dedicated aviation center at Auburn offers a “tremendous impact” for students seeking career opportunities throughout the industry, including within business aviation.

“Many Auburn aviation alumni have pursued careers in business aviation,” Mohrman added. “Auburn already has a state-of-the-art FBO, and the university’s flight department operates two jets. This center offers the added potential for a dedicated ‘learning lab’ about business aviation operations that will give Auburn students great exposure to careers in all of those fields.”

Composed of the aviation management program and the professional flight management program, Auburn’s existing aviation education program is the only one of its kind in the state. The program has graduated more than 4,000 students since its inception in 1941.

Despite that storied history, Auburn officials stunned students and alumni when they announced in May 2013 their intent to “sunset” the school’s aviation management programs. That news came following the death of a senior tenured professor in the program and looming concerns over its continued accreditation.

However, a strong outpouring of support from industry stakeholders and program alumni, including NBAA staff members and personnel from NBAA Member Companies, led to a reversal of that decision in July 2013, and a renewed commitment from school officials to preserve and enhance Auburn’s aviation offerings. The Aviation Accreditation Board International re-accredited the school’s resurgent aviation management curriculum earlier this year.

“We want to thank everyone who has contributed to this extraordinary campaign to keep the nation’s oldest continually operated aviation program thriving, and in particular we appreciate all that NBAA has done for business aviation and collegiate aviation,” Mohrman added. “This center will greatly expand the reach of Auburn’s aviation programs and the potential opportunities for future students.”

Hutto added that a steering committee would meet in the next six to eight weeks to gauge input from academic, government and industry stakeholders about the center’s initial program offerings.