Wright State announced a new aviation program for people interested in becoming pilots

Program would support Wright Patterson Air Force Base as well as the Dayton Regional Airport.

Credit: Erin Pence

Credit: Erin Pence

Wright State University is launching an aviation degree aimed at people who want to become pilots, the university announced this week.

Students can earn a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree or minor in aviation, the university said. The program will admit 40 people the first round in fall 2024, said Bob Mihalek, university spokesman.

Students who want to enroll do not need previous flight experience, according to the university. Wright State’s aviation courses will be offered in partnership with First Flight Aviation, a flight school at the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miamisburg.

“Wright State is excited to build on our innovative roots and offer a comprehensive aviation degree program that gives our students the skills to pursue careers as pilots while supporting our region and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” said WSU president Sue Edwards.

The university expects the program to mostly attract students directly out of high school, Mihalek said.

The aviation industry in North America is expected to experience a shortage of 127,000 pilots over the next 20 years, Boeing estimated last year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said employment of airline pilots is expected to grow about 4% between 2023 and 2032, which is about as fast as average, and about 16,800 openings for airline and commercial pilots are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Savannah Oakley plans to go into the aviation major this coming year. Oakley, from Kettering, wanted to be a pilot but also wanted to stay near her hometown, so Wright State’s program met her needs well. She’s already taken multiple classes at the university related to aviation.

“I am excited to be in the first class to go through the program,” she said.

Mihalek said five Wright State employees have been teaching these classes in the last year, and the university plans to hire more people for the major now they have gotten approval from the Higher Learning Commission, which is the accrediting agency for Wright State and most Ohio universities.

Other Ohio universities also offer a pilot program, including Kent State University, the University of Cincinnati and Bowling Green University.

Wright State says the program will let students fly a plane in their first semester if they meet certain requirements. Students must be U.S. citizens to meet TSA security requirements. They have to be able to obtain a Class 1 medical certificate and must interview with the program director and chief flight instructor first before enrolling in aviation courses, specifically the ground school and flight labs.

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