Future of AU's aviation program still up in the air

Published: Apr. 30, 2013 at 1:03 AM CDT|Updated: May. 9, 2013 at 9:03 PM CDT
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AUBURN, AL (WSFA) - As the state of Alabama rallies around another economic win in the aviation industry - the opening of General Electric's $50 million aviation factory in Auburn - just a few miles away in the same city the future of Auburn University's aviation program remains uncertain.

Despite a high level meeting Monday, the state's only four-year aviation program is now just days away from losing its accreditation.

Aviation students who are normally in the air learning how to operate an aircraft took to Samford Hall to show support for the program.

[BACKGROUND: Auburn University's aviation program in jeopardy 4/10/13]

"We are here in mass number," Senior Clayton Adamy said.

The students huddled outside while three other students and vice chair of the Aviation Advisory Board, Allen Thames, finally got their seat at the table inside. It was an hour long meeting with a surprising outcome.

"The provost heard a lot of things he had not heard before, which was frankly a surprise to us," Thames said. He believes the provost has only received information from the AU College of Business. The COB holds the stance that the aviation program is in decline and that qualified professors are hard to find.

"It's not difficult," Thames countered with a smile. "The Aviation ManagementAdvisory Board has offered to assist in that regard."

There are ways to rebuild the program without losing its accreditation, but whether that deal will be reached is still in question.

"AABI requires that we hire full time faculty for this program," Thames explains, "and if we have a plan to do so, they will give us a chance."

Adamy will graduate from Auburn next week, turning in his student status for a job with JetBlue. It's an accomplishment he credits solely to Auburn's aviation program and a staggering number of professors.

"I have seen a decline in teachers," Adamy explains, "from retirements to leaving for other institutions that give more support."

While Alabama basks in the aviation accomplishments of GE's $50 million plant and the groundbreaking of Airbus' $600 million plant, it's in danger of seeing one the country's most renowned aviation programs lose its wings.

Some of the state's top politicians are taking notice. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, says he will look into the issue. Lt. Governor Kay Ivey has also written a letter to Auburn University President Jay Gogue seeking to find a way to save the program.

Another meeting is scheduled for May 6.

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