Auburn University rises as a launch pad for aerospace careers


With highly qualified alumni and innovative research efforts, Auburn University makes an important contribution to the aerospace industry in Alabama.

Enrollments in industry-related majors, including aerospace engineering, aviation management, and commercial aviation, have increased significantly in recent years.

Auburn has forged several partnerships with NASA and the Department of Defenseas well as leading manufacturers and airlines.

“Auburn has long had a world-class reputation for its engineering and flight programs,” he said Gregory Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “Through rigorous training and creative collaborations in both the military and commercial spheres, the university continues to expand its influence in space and in the air.”

Enrollment in Auburn University programs related to the aerospace industry, including aerospace engineering, aviation management, and commercial aviation, has increased significantly in recent years. (Auburn University)

Aerospace Engineering Center

That Aerospace Engineering Institute in which Samuel Ginn College of Engineering is a starting point for much of that influence, as its graduates work for every major aerospace company in the US. Enrollment has increased in recent years, from 414 students in 2015 to 610 last fall.

Much of this popularity is a result of increased employment opportunities in government and commercial aerospace. Other aerospace engineering university programs are seeing increasing enrollments. But Auburn’s growth is above the national average, he said Dr Brian Thurowoffice chair.

“Our students are mostly from Alabama or the Southeast, and with everything that’s happening at NASA in Huntsville and other parts of the state, they grew up with this pride in the aerospace industry,” he said.

Auburn offers aerospace engineering students plenty of hands-on experience to enhance hands-on skills for their future careers, and there is a solid track record of success. Notable alumni of the program include astronauts Ken Mattingly and Jim Voss, and Nelda Lee, the first woman to fly an F-15.

“From the day a student steps onto campus, we place a strong emphasis on student involvement and the practical aspects of the engineering profession,” Thurow said. “What makes you good as an engineer is the experience you have outside of the classroom.

“Your GPA is important for getting scholarships and getting your foot in the door, but after that first job, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Thurow cites student teams competing in engineering competitions around the country, including teams designing and building radio-controlled airplanes, payload-carrying missiles, robots that operate in extreme conditions, and all-terrain vehicles and racing cars.

The teams are multidisciplinary, giving students another real-world aspect to practice as they interact with peers in mechanical, electrical, computer science, and other engineering programs.

“I think when students come to Auburn, they see that there are a dozen different things to get involved in, and there’s no shortage of opportunities to experience cool things,” Thurow said.

Besides the student competition teams, these other “cool things” include cutting-edge research at the faculty, such as B. the design of a 40-foot airship, which was part of an effort to test novel air vehicles for short-range and other applications.

Another project involves tracking a lunar rover that will study chemical compounds on the lunar surface and create the first resource map of an area near the lunar south pole.

Auburn participates in a program with the Air Force Research Laboratory to design, build and test small satellites. The university maintains partnerships with nearby air force bases to collaborate on academic studies.

Auburn has the only flight program among Southeastern Conference universities, and about 60% of its students are international. (Auburn University)

careers in aviation

Meanwhile Auburn’s flight school makes significant contributions of its own.

Nearly 700 students are expected to enroll in commercial flight and aviation management majors this fall, up from 84 in 2014.

Director of Aviation Jacob Witte attributes this popularity to the high standing of the school. It is the only flight program among Southeastern Conference universities, and approximately 60% of Auburn’s students are international.

Witte said that flight students are usually driven to their career choices from the start, and the school only loses about 4% of applicants in the first year.

“People applying for aviation are not here to ‘find themselves’ or explore,” he said. “They come here with a firm belief that they want a career in aviation and they are very committed when they arrive. It’s the same kind of drive you find in medical students or possibly law students. It’s not for the faint of heart.”

Auburn Aviation has partnerships with Delta Airlines and United Airlines, which offers professional student pilots career development opportunities as well as the opportunity to become pilots for the airlines in a shorter period of time. These are very selective programs and Witte said he expects similar partnerships with two other airlines to follow.

The aviation management program trains students primarily for aerodrome and airport operations jobs, and there are thousands of students across the United States. They also work for airlines in a variety of support positions and for government in aviation roles.

“People often underestimate the amount of support positions required to service a fleet of cargo or passenger aircraft,” Witte said. “There is an enormous administrative burden to keep an airline alive. And every airport has an airport manager who is responsible for regulatory compliance, finance, expansion and many other tasks.”

Witte said there was a shortage of such professionals, and Auburn’s aviation alumni filled the gaps.

“Our people generally don’t go out looking for a job,” he said.

This story originally appeared in the Alabama Department of Commerce Made in Alabama website.


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