Evan Belanger | firstname.lastname@example.org By Evan Belanger
AUBURN, Alabama — A new ruling from Federal Aviation Administration will enable graduates from Auburn University’s flight school to obtain certificates to fly commercially with fewer flight hours.
Effective immediately, the university announced today, aviation graduates from the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business will be eligible to earn Airline Transport Pilot certificates with as few as 1,000 flying hours rather than 1,500.
The FAA announced in July it was upping the requirement to 1,500 after a 2009 plane crash near Buffalo, N.Y. in which both the captain and the first officer were relatively inexperienced.
However, in effort to recognize top collegiate aviation programs, the FAA modified the rule, allowing qualifying schools to certify their students for hiring with fewer hours.
Auburn is one of only six schools nationally to earn the designation to date. It is Alabama’s only four-year flight school.
“This is another exclusive endorsement of the quality of the aviation programs at Auburn,” said Dale Watson, director of aviation education at Auburn University. “Best of all, it is a tremendous benefit to our students.”
The FAA designation allows students who plan to become commercial pilots to reduce their flight training time by 250 to 500 hours, translating to a significant cost savings.
The ruling comes just months after the future of Auburn’s professional flight program was uncertain. Citing declining enrollment, business school Dean Bill Hardgrave recommended in May that the university eliminate the program and outsource Auburn’s flight school.
At the time, the program was in danger of losing its accreditation from the Aviation Accreditation Board International for having too few full-time professors and other shortcomings.
But after a programmatic review — and an alumni- and student-led campaign to save the program — Auburn Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Timothy Boosinger announced in July the university would preserve the program.
In his announcement, Boosinger committed the university to addressing AABI’s concerns of the program, writing “we will pursue the authority to certify our graduates for an Airline Transport Pilot certificate.”
In a statement, Jason Mohrman — an Auburn alum and United Airlines pilot who helped lead the effort to save the aviation program — called the designation a “tremendous positive for Auburn’s nationally recognized aviation program.”
However, he said they are still waiting to learn how the university will handle the upcoming AABI review to preserve the program’s accreditation.
That accreditation is necessary to preserve a JetBlue program at Auburn that helps graduates land entry-level flight jobs and guarantees them an interview at JetBlue once they’ve logged enough flight hours.
“… We are encouraged that AU will maintain AABI accreditation that is required for the JetBlue university gateway program and imperative for AU’s nationally recognized aviation program’s prominence,” Mohrman said.
“AABI is supposed to visit AU this fall. Having this accreditation is vitally important to graduates in this competitive field.”