On Aviation: The Sky’s the Limit

In recent weeks, our School of Aviation has been in the news, as we build on a tradition and a capacity that is unique to Middle Georgia State University within the University System of Georgia. When the Board of Regents met this month, they received an update on USG integrated review of our proposal to lease space from the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority at the Macon Downtown Airport, where we will begin offering fixed wing flight instruction and related educational opportunities next semester. Last week, with tremendous community support, we officially entered into that partnership.

Macon is the first step of a multi-year plan, subject to further reviews, approvals, and funding that would allow us to expand aerospace learning capacity throughout the State of Georgia to meet industry employment needs. With more than 700 companies and an annual economic impact of $51 billion, aerospace—not peaches or peanuts—is the #1 international export for the state. MGA is where the industry will find the talent it needs to keep growing in Georgia.

Our reputation for cutting edge work—such as building parts for NASA and work on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones)—paired with a larger footprint and plans to grow in fields like logistics and advanced manufacturing will create new and exciting opportunities. Whether students take courses at the hub of our School of Aviation in Eastman, online, or at the new satellite learning facility in Macon starting in January 2016, our graduates will leave MGA ready to contribute to the industry.

In that vein, last week we also signed an agreement with ExpressJet that provides our flight students with guaranteed interviews. With that formalized relationship as a model, we are now working to expand job placement to several other Regional Air Carriers.

These recent developments are part of a plan that provides a systematic approach to adjust existing aviation academic programs, analyze industry education needs, develop partnerships with employers and educational institutions, and establish satellite learning locations through a coordinated statewide expansion. Our efforts in aviation are a great example of how we must think and behave as a state university.

We must look holistically at the opportunities before us, both in our immediate communities and beyond the region.  We can support efforts at revitalization in East Macon, while continuing to be a major contributor to the economy in Eastman, and creating opportunities statewide for students to pursue a career in a growing field.

In short, lifelong learning is not a zero sum game.  The sky truly is the limit and, as the only four-year public aviation school in the state, we are ready to soar.