With the addition of its new aviation department, Pasco-Hernando State College is preparing to launch students into an industry flourishing with job opportunities.
The college began offering two associates of science degrees in professional pilot technology and aviation administration for the fall semester, which began Aug. 21 at its East Campus in Dade City.
The two–year programs are designed for students interested in becoming private and commercial pilots or airport managers. Other possible career opportunities include flight dispatchers, transportation security officers, various Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) occupations, aviation safety and aircraft manufacturing.
The professional pilot technology already has received accreditation approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); the aviation administration is still awaiting approval.
Those aren’t the only new aviation programs in development, however.
Next fall, PHSC expects to offer associate degree programs in both unmanned vehicle systems and aviation maintenance administration, and a bachelor of applied science, with a concentration in aviation.
Plans are in development for an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate program, as well, to tie into the aviation maintenance administration degree program.
The state college officially introduced the aviation department during a July 27 open house, which drew a crowd of more than 100 students, faculty and community members.
The department, which consists of six faculty members, is overseen by Mark Aragon and Michael Brunnschweiler. More staff will be added once additional programs are approved.
Aragon is a certified fixed wing pilot and FAA certified unmanned pilot, who spent more than 30 years in the United States Air Force, with multiple tours in Afghanistan and Bosnia. He is an instructor, and is the coordinator for the professional pilot technology and unmanned vehicle systems programs.
Brunnschweiler is a licensed commercial pilot, who spent nine years in the United States Marine Corps and six years as adjunct instructor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He serves as an instructor, and is the coordinator for the aviation administration and aviation maintenance administration programs.
Aviation students who complete the professional pilot technology program will receive a private pilot license, instrument pilot rating, multi-engine pilot rating and commercial pilot license.
Flight training, in partnership with American Aviation Inc., will be based out of the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
Students, who receive more than 200 flying hours during the entire degree program, also will train on the FAA-approved Advanced Flight Simulator Laboratory, located at PHSC’s East Campus. The simulators can be reconfigured to emulate all types of aircraft in any environment or weather condition, providing a realistic experience.
Besides flight training, other classroom topics cover meteorology, flight safety and security, flight theory, and aviation regulations, among others.
“Our program is a little bit different than other programs, because it’s designed to emulate the duties as an airline pilot,” Aragon said. “They include wearing the pilot’s uniform, dispatching the aircraft, crew resource management, and even post-flight duties.”
For aviation administration, capstone projects also will incorporate simulation software, with students learning how to run an airline, purchase and maintain aircraft, schedule flight routes, and handle delays and safety concerns.
Each of those scenarios, Brunnschweiler said, provides “an awesome, awesome learning experience for the students.”
The state college’s new offerings come at an ideal time for an airline industry that’s projected to see a massive worker shortage in the next two decades.
A report released last month by Boeing estimates airlines in North America are going to need 117,000 new pilots and more than 200,000 aviation mechanics in the next 20 years, as passenger and cargo airlines worldwide are expected to buy 41,000 new airliners between 2017 and 2036.
Meanwhile, retirements at U.S. airlines will start to rise precipitously starting in 2021 as the current crop of pilots turn 65, the mandated age of retirement. More than 42 percent of active U.S. airline pilots at the biggest carriers will retire over the next 20 years, according to a recent report by Cowen & Company.
Currently, aviation-related jobs create annual earnings of $446 billion to the United States — almost 6 percent of our Gross National Product, the FAA reports.
During the open house, PHSC president Timothy Beard called the aviation department “a game-changer” for the college, its students, and local employers and partners.
“We have a commitment and an investment in providing new career workforce opportunities, and we believe these programs, along with other programs, will continue to take us to the top of the mountain here at PHSC,” Beard said.
“I am quite confident that our aviation programs provide an ideal learning environment, combined with expert instruction, state-of-the-art equipment, and excellent aviation and industry partners,” he said.
The state college’s aviation initiative began in January of 2016.
That year, the Florida Legislature granted PHSC $2.3 million towards STEM programs.
Stan Giannet, vice president of academic affairs at PHSC, said “a good chunk” of that funding went to the aviation department’s technological and personnel costs.
He noted the next step for the aviation department is to cultivate additional community partnerships and develop an internship program.
Published August 23, 2017