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Once-Threatened Auburn Aviation Program Now Looks Toward Future

March 6, 2014

After a veritable rollercoaster of developments affecting the Auburn University Aviation Program over the past year, including the threatened closure of Alabama's only collegiate-level aviation school, supporters cheered when the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) re-accredited the school's resurgent aviation management curriculum last month.

School officials announced their intent last May to outsource Auburn's flight training program and ultimately "sunset" the aviation management degree program. However, following an outpouring of support from the aviation community, Auburn University officials reversed their decision two months later and instead committed to further development of Auburn’s aviation curriculum.

Program Status Does a Complete 180

"AABI recognized Auburn's efforts to address what was required for accreditation," said Auburn alum and United Airlines pilot Jason Mohrman, who helped spearhead efforts last year to save the aviation school. "In less than a year we have gone from saving the program, to getting it accredited."

The AABI endorsement bolsters efforts to expand the school’s aviation facilities, with plans underway to hire additional instructors and seek additional funding. Accreditation was also vital to the school's ability to offer internship opportunities and post-graduate job placement programs to students, including its participation in the JetBlue Airways Gateway Program to place qualified pilot candidates.

Additionally, Auburn recently earned approval from the FAA to certify students in the school’s airline transport pilot (ATP) curricula, allowing ATP certification with fewer hours than the recently implemented 1,500-hour requirement.

"The outpouring of support has been unprecedented," Mohrman added. "The program is now set for expansion and additional partnerships, something we could not have achieved without extensive support."

Grassroots Advocacy Played a Part

NBAA Northwest Regional Representative – and Auburn Aviation Program graduate Kristi Ivey – has been actively involved in efforts to preserve the program, and she also praised efforts by former and current students – including their use of social media – in getting the word out.

"I'm truly encouraged by the business aviation community and NBAA Members, both AU Aviation alumni and others, who sent emails and made phone calls demonstrating their support of the program, which clearly resonated with university leadership and brought about the positive change" she added. "Social media, and specifically the Auburn University Aviation Alumni group on Facebook, proved to be valuable tools that enabled us to energize supporters and keep everyone updated on the latest developments."

Mohrman further noted that those efforts ensured that the nation's oldest continually operated collegiate aviation program would continue. "We could not be more appreciative of industry support at all levels, including the positive influence of NBAA," he concluded. "This grassroots effort started with Auburn students and spread throughout the aviation community."

Aviation program alumni and other supporters will hold a celebratory tailgate party on Saturday, April 19, in conjunction with Auburn's "A-Day" spring football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Direct comments on this story to NBAA's Kristi Ivey at kivey@nbaa.org.