The Auburn University aviation program is training a new generation of pilots

Posted On October 23, 2022

Want to learn to fly? Auburn University has a program for that.

The roots of Auburn’s aviation program stretch all the way back to the Wright brothers, and include pilot training for World War II. These days, they’re preparing students for jobs in an aviation industry in desperate need of replacing a retiring generation of pilots.

Our guests in the latest episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston” were Auburn aviation program coordinator James Birdsong and professor of aviation management Jim Witte, who told us it’s a great time to enter in the industry if you want to learn to fly.

“People like to travel, they like adventure, and this is a career where you can do both,” Birdsong said. “Certainly the opportunities are immense right now as well.”

It’s a popular program that draws a lot of students from out of state, a lot of students from families who have backgrounds in aviation, and a growing number of female students. Witte, former military pilot who has 60 years of experience in aviation, says students must do these three things to complete the program:

  • Develop skill – learn to handle an aircraft.
  • Build knowledge – learn how the aircraft works.
  • Be flexible and focused – scheduling will often require the sacrifice of other activities.

Students typically graduate with around 350 flight hours. That’s a great head start toward the hours required to earn a pilot’s license.

Auburn aviation students can also take part in the War Eagle Flying Team, a student-run group that brought home top honors  from the 2022 National Intercollegiate Flying Association SAFECON competition.

If you don’t like heights, you can even be a part of the aviation program and never leave the ground. The program also trains drone pilots for jobs in a rapidly growing field.

“We’re preparing drone pilots here for fire protection, firefighting, agriculture, construction, police work and the list goes on and on,” said Witte, an FAA-certified drone pilot. “The jobs available grow daily.”

This episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston” was a collaboration with Business Alabama magazine. For more info, check out the magazine’s great article on Auburn’s aviation program.


Categories: Blog, Education, Podcast, What's Working with Cam Marston