Eastern Kentucky University has cleared another runway for its nationally unique aviation program.
Soon, the Ashland Regional Airport will be buzzing with EKU aircraft, thanks to a 2 + 2 agreement signed on Aug. 8 by EKU President Michael Benson and ACTC President Kay Adkins. It’s the fourth such agreement that Eastern has inked with community and technical colleges statewide in an effort to prepare pilots for the 500,000 openings expected over the next 20 years.
EKU offers the nation’s only FAA-approved “1,000-hour power” 2 + 2 degree pathway to aviation careers. Now, students can earn a two-year associate degree at ACTC, complete a bachelor’s degree in aviation from EKU and earn their pilot credentials, all without ever leaving the tri-state area. Eastern already has similar agreements with community and technical colleges in Hazard, Middlesboro and Owensboro, and hopes to blanket the state where community and technical colleges are co-located with a regional airport.
At Ashland, students will be able to begin the flight portion of their degree in January 2016, but they can begin now or continue to take classes toward their associate of arts degree. In fact, several who have expressed an interest in the program have already earned their two-year degree. Aviation courses, some online, will be taught by local instructors hired by EKU.
In 2013, the FAA granted special authority for EKU aviation-professional flight graduates to take the Restricted Airline Transport Pilot (R-ATP) check ride at 1,000 hours, instead of waiting for the previous 1,500 hours. More recently, the FAA added the University’s aviation-aerospace technology degree to its list of approved “1,000-hour power” degrees. Now, students at ACTC and the other partnering community and technical colleges will be able to complete their FAA private pilot through instructor pilot certificates and ratings, their associate degree, their bachelor’s degrees, and simultaneously earn their “1,000-hour power” certificate.
The job market is wide open, according to Ralph Gibbs, director of EKU’s Aviation Program.
“Out of the four EKU students interviewed by Express Jet recently, three were offered jobs as first officers,” he noted. “All they had to do to cash in the offer was to complete their degree and fly their 1,000 hours.”
Gibbs said he will invite all the regional airline recruiters to visit Ashland and the other 2 + 2 sites, just as they now do at the Richmond campus.
“This will give an opportunity for our students to find a job right here at home,” beamed Adkins, noting the proximity of the Tri-State Airport in Huntington. “It’s a win-win for all of us.”
Both Adkins and Benson thanked State Rep. Tanya Pullin, who was on hand for the Ashland signing, for her strong support of the program and partnership, for which she helped secure financial support in the General Assembly.
Now EKU’s attention turns to forging more such partnerships across Kentucky and across the United States. EKU Aviation has a similar 2 + 2 agreement in process with Central Oregon Community College.
“Our goal,” Benson said, “is to fly the EKU flag at every regional airport in the Commonwealth, and across the United States.”
For more information about the EKU Aviation Program, visit www.aviation.eku.edu.