George Mason University starts flight training program


As the economy has faltered over the past few years and airline jobs became hard to come by, many colleges and universities across the country cut costly aviation programs. Others saw opportunity and an impending pilot shortage and went the opposite direction, starting or expanding programs. George Mason University in Virginia, in partnership with the flight school Aviation Adventures, is the latest.

Although the program is now only a minor leading to a private pilot certificate, Aviation Adventures Owner Bob Hepp hopes to see it expand in the future. “We would like it to grow to a major with an independent program,” he said.

The minor is available in the school’s engineering program. The university conducts the ground school, and students can flight train at any of Aviation Adventures’ three locations. “They can train in a Cessna 152, Skycatcher, legacy 172, or a Diamond DA20,” he said. The lab fee pays for the airplane up to a certain hour limit that Hepp said he thinks will allow students to finish the certificate.

The partnership started because of the work of one of the school’s instructors. Conor Dancy was instructing while finishing his degree at George Mason. He was involved in an aviation club at the school, which gave the group an avenue to approach the administration about a more robust program.

George Mason’s interest is simple, Hepp says. “The provost is strongly behind it. They looked at the employment potential of student graduates.”

George Mason’s aviation minor starts this fall.