Expansions in Aeronautics
Liberty University’s School of Aeronautics is now offering unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) training and has significantly expanded both its aviation maintenance and flight attendant programs. The school anticipates an “explosion” of job opportunities in the next few years.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently testing to see whether manned and unmanned aircraft can fly safely in the same airspace, and their results are expected within five years, according to Associate Dean retired Navy Capt. Ernie Rogers.
“That technology will increase, and then once the FAA approves it, industry experts are expecting a real explosion in the use of UAS in the United States,” Rogers said.
Rogers anticipates a tremendous increase in demand for UAS pilots. Law enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Agency, pipeline patrols, TV stations and even crop dusting and international cargo flights are all potential UAS applications.
The simplicity, safety and extremely low cost of small, unmanned aircraft make them perfect for countless new jobs in the future, according to Rogers.
“Also, some of the plans are to put a UAS balloon at 60,000 feet over selected cities to replace the need for cell phone towers,” he said. “It will just sit up there for a month or two, and then they’ll replace it. The need for cell phone towers and some satellites will go away.”
School of Aeronautics Dean retired Air Force Gen. Dave Young sees an opportunity for an online UAS program. The school already offers an online degree finish-up program for airline pilots and military members to finish their degree with seven advance aviation academic courses such as aviation business and aviation weather.
“We see an opportunity for an online degree program in UAS, and that would apply to these military UAS operators, let’s say — enlisted persons that don’t have a college degree, but have the UAS experience,” Young said. “We can give them credit for that and flesh out their other college requirements.”
Along with the new UAS program, two others have seen tremendous growth in the past year. The aircraft maintenance technician program opened a new building in November that will triple the size of the program.
Instead of training one 11-month class at a time, the school can now support three. Rogers said the maintenance school has a 98 percent graduation rate and a 100 percent employment rate.
“It’s a two year program squeezed into one year,” Rogers said. “It’s nice — you leave with an airframe and power plant license, so you’re an FAA licensed mechanic. You have the opportunity to work while you’re in college, or if that’s not what you want to do, you can get your job and finish your degree online.”
A final program which has grown significantly is Liberty’s flight attendant program. It grew 400 percent since last year. The program can be taken as an elective, minor or associates degree. When students finish their flight attendant training, they are awarded a certificate of completion from the Flight Attendant Training Group and a letter of recommendation from the School of Aeronautics.
“The primary focus of the training is safety, security and emergency training because that’s why flight attendants exist,” one Flight Attendant Training Group instructor said. “Our training focuses on water survival, fires and other emergencies that may arise. We feel that anyone can hand out a Coke, but not everyone can save a life.”
According to the Flight Attendant Training Group instructors, it is a great job that involves plenty of traveling while still allowing enough time off to do other things like school, a second job or raising a family.
Rogers said flight attendants are in demand as much as other career fields in the aviation industry. As the country climbs out of the recession and older flight crews retire, he said School of Aeronautics graduates will be ready to take advantage of the opportunity.