LaGrange College saw need for pilots leading to new aviation program
Published 8:45 am Thursday, June 1, 2023
In the fall, LaGrange College is adding an aviation program, which will allow students to earn a minor in the subject while preparing for various careers in piloting.
Brian Peterson, Vice President for Academic Affairs at LaGrange College, said adding aviation unique program to the college’s academics came from conversations with community partners about the need for more pilots, regionally, nationally and internationally.
“Labor market estimates show that the pilot profession will increase by about 4% per year into the near future, making it one of the fastest-growing employment fields. As the discussion continued, it became clear that students need the professional training as a pilot in addition to, and not necessarily in place of, a bachelor’s degree,” Peterson said.
“This is a minor students can choose alongside their chosen major degree field. In many ways, that is the truly unique feature of this program is that any of our undergraduate bachelor’s degree students can receive their professional pilot licensure. It isn’t a substitute for business, biology, or theatre, but rather very complementary to those programs.”
Through the use of a flight simulator on campus and up to four Cessna Skyhawks with digital avionics at nearby LaGrange-Callaway Airport, the program will provide training for Private Pilot Certification, Instrument Flight Rating and Commercial Pilot Licensing.
“We have two other flight schools that are currently located at this airport,” said Dexter Wells, LaGrange-Callaway Airport manager. “Countrywide we are short on pilots and any way that we can help alleviate that is a great opportunity. Aviation is a great field for our local students to go in to make a very promising career. On all those fronts, I think this is a very beneficial opportunity for everyone involved.”
The college said in a press release that classes will be offered through a partnership with Paragon Flight Training, an award-winning flight training academy based at Page Field in Fort Myers, Florida.
Peterson said since the announcement of the program students have been excited about the prospect of taking on a minor in aviation.
“We have been hearing from students who were thinking about transferring and are now changing their minds so they can participate,” Peterson said. “We have also been hearing from new first-year students who have applied to the college because of the program.”
As the launch of the program approaches, Peterson said they hope to see approximately eight students per cohort move through the program to keep the momentum going.
“The program itself is very scalable to the institution’s growth. As we move forward as an institution, we only need additional planes and instructors. Students have the ability to become licensed as flight instructors themselves, which not only increases their ability to log hours in the air but also will add to the potential hiring pool as new instructors are needed,” Peterson said.