Auburn University officials have reversed an earlier decision to outsource flight training and “sunset” its aviation management programs, and now say they are committed to further developing Auburn’s aviation curriculum.
"Auburn will continue and strengthen both the professional flight management and aviation management degree programs," read the July 15 announcement signed by Auburn Provost Timothy Boosinger. "During the past few months, we conducted an evaluation process that examined several options. The decision to keep both degree programs allows us to develop exciting future plans for Auburn aviation."
Boosinger listed several objectives going forward, including better facilities for the Alabama-based university's flight training program; hiring additional instructors, a key requirement for the school to maintain accreditation through the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI); and seeking additional funding for the program, likely through tuition increases and donations from alumni and industry supporters.
The school also announced plans to seek approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to certify students in Auburn's Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) curricula under a program, available to schools offering four-year aviation degrees, which allows ATP certification with fewer hours than the recently implemented 1,500-hour requirement.
Joe Hanna, associate dean of aviation & supply chain management, will continue serving as the interim director of Auburn's aviation programs until the school names a permanent successor. While many of the specifics have not yet been clarified, program supporters are understandably pleased with the university's decision.
"I believed we would get a positive outcome at some point, but I really did not personally expect it would happen so soon," said Auburn alumnus and United Airlines pilot Jason Mohrman, who credited the reversal to "tremendous grassroots support from alumni, parents, students and all corners of the aviation industry.
"Once word got out about the announcement to 'sunset' the aviation program, that support kept building and building," Mohrman added.
Others expressed guarded optimism about the decision. "Assuming that the university follows through on its statement about giving the program the support it needs to grow, then Auburn's aviation program has a very bright future ahead of it," said alumnus Eric Staton. "We're on the verge of a massive demand for new pilots and aviation professionals throughout the industry. Revitalizing the program couldn't come at a better time."
NBAA Northwest Regional Representative Kristi Ivey, an Auburn aviation program graduate, has also been actively involved in efforts to preserve the program, and welcomed Boosinger's announcement.
"I'm grateful for this change of heart on the part of the AU leadership," Ivey said. "This program is the reason so many of us have had success in this wonderful industry we call aviation, and to see it threatened like we did was devastating."