FAA ruling allows Auburn aviation students to become pilots faster

AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - Auburn University's aviation program has made a complete 180 since almost having to close its doors this past spring.

Auburn has been recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing graduates to earn Airline Transport Pilot certificates with 1,000 flying hours rather than 1,500.

"500 hours is huge and anybody who knows human factors knows that 500 hours of extra flight time is small in comparison to the aptitude of the student," explains Nick Plagenhouf, a flight instructor with AU's Aviation program.

The FAA increased the hours to 1,500 after a 2009 plane crash in New York, where it was ruled the captain did not have enough experience.

The Administration changed the rule, allowing specific schools to certify their students with fewer hours like Auburn, Alabama's only four-year flight school.

"It also helps Auburn and the Aviation program because it will attract more students to the program and will provide an incentive for inspiring aviators to come to Auburn," says Plagenhouf.

Earlier this year, the program was in danger of losing their accreditation from the Aviation Accreditation Board.

AU announced they were going to save the program in May, today accreditation is still pending.

This accreditation is necessary to preserve a JetBlue program at Auburn that helps graduates obtain jobs and even guarantees them an interview at JetBlue after enough flight hours have been completed.

"They visited us last fall and gave us several recommendations on how to improve our programs and we have already implemented some of the recommendations  that we're provided to us in that report and we're continuing to evaluate probably three remaining recommendations," explains interim director of the Aviation program, Joe Hanna.

Those remaining recommendations include building a new facility, hiring additional maintenance personal and new instructors.

"We're probably going to meet in the next couple of weeks to examine some of the remaining recommendations that they have and see what their expectations are and see if we can come to an agreement," says Hanna.

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