Auburn University's aviation program in jeopardy - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Auburn University's aviation program in jeopardy

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AUBURN, AL (WSFA) -

Accreditation concerns could eventually ground one of the most unique aviation programs in the United States, and it's located in Alabama.

Auburn University is the only school in the state to offer a 4-year aviation management program, but at the end of the semester it will lose its only accredited professor.

The winds of concern are blowing across The Plains and through Auburn's renowned, 72-year-old aviation program. It's the nation's oldest continually active program, educating aviation professionals since 1941. It's a program sought out by students from across the country.

"This is the reason I came to Auburn," one student explained. "I moved here from Minneapolis..." said a second student, and a third from Syracuse, New York said they also sought out the program.

They're three juniors and seniors who now feel the accreditation issue could cost them a valuable ticket to fly and manage global companies. Students and alumni have launched an online petition and program [http://flyauburn.org/] to rally support to save the program. 

FlyAuburn.org says Auburn University was told in a report by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) that it must hire additional faculty to bring down the student/faculty ratio, but says the University responded in a letter saying it would not be hiring tenured faculty for the program. The program has since lost one professor due to an untimely death and a second due to retirement.

Auburn University says no decisions have been made regarding the long term viability of the program citing significant declines in the size of the program over the last ten years.

Auburn is one of just four universities in the country to offer the Gateway Program with JetBlue, helping pilots fly for major air carriers in half the time. Speaking of the program's influence, one student said there are Auburn alumni in every airline. "It's all included."

"There's a massive pilot shortage," one student said. "They need us."

There are more than 3,800 Auburn Aviation Management alumni. They work at all major U.S. airlines, in all branches of the U.S. military and in a host of other areas throughout the aviation industry.

Now, the focus is on the fall and ensuring enough qualified teachers are on staff to keep the fleet in the skies, giving students a smooth landing after graduation.

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