On Aviation: Our Unique Trait

This Saturday, Middle Georgia State will host the Second Annual Heart of Georgia Airshow, which will cap our 2016 Homecoming festivities. In addition to feature aerobatic performances—ranging from MX2 aircraft maneuvers to silverwing parachute and Georgia State Patrol helicopter demonstrations—this family-friendly and free event at the Heart of Georgia Regional Airport on our Eastman campus will include a flight simulator, food, entertainment, and interactive exhibits for all ages showcasing STEM careers.

As the only public four-year aviation school in the state, we are uniquely positioned to host such an event. Even more important, as the only state university offering bachelor’s degrees in flight and airport management, we are an important entry point for students seeking a career in Georgia’s growing aviation and aerospace industry. Again this year, we will seek legislative support for state funding to ensure we are capable of our statewide mission.

The aerospace industry brings $51 billion into Georgia’s economy each year, making it—not peaches or peanuts—the state’s single largest export. More than 700 aerospace and aviation companies call Georgia home and we are committed to providing the talent they need to succeed by taking our programs from the school’s aviation hub in Eastman to the rest of the state over the next three years.

The progress we have already made is worth celebrating. We have partnered with Macon-Bibb County and the Industrial Authority of Bibb County to become the fixed base operator for the Macon Downtown Airport. Currently there are 32 students enrolled in flight and other academic programs in Macon.

In order to increase diversity in the aviation industry we have hosted a program on the Eastman campus, drawing 100 youth from the south east region affiliated with the Tuskegee Airman Legacy Flight Academy. And, our Institute for Aerospace Research has completed a number of projects for NASA, including manufacture of specialized parts for the James Webb Space Telescope.

The skills our aviation graduates develop are in demand. Over the last five years, the job placement rates for our pilots are 93% for fixed wing and 72% for helicopter, each with a median salary of $118,140, and 84% among our Aviation Maintenance and Structural Technology graduates with a median salary of $60,160.

We aim to help our students navigate the pathways to professional success. We have agreements in place with ExpressJet and Piedmont Airlines to facilitate recruitment of our graduates, and on Saturday, I will formally sign a third such agreement with PSA, another subsidiary of American Airlines.

Like a faculty and staff dedicated to service, and determined students, aviation is a core—and unique—component of who we are. As we celebrate this weekend, let us heed the words of Ralph Waldo Emmerson, “Insist on yourself; never imitate.”