Unique College Majors: Aviation at Fairmont State University - WBOY - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Unique College Majors: Aviation at Fairmont State University

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Becoming a pilot takes hours and hours of practice.

This practice starts on the first day of school if you're studying aviation at Fairmont State University.

Hugh McKane, chief flight instructor of the program, said, "it's really fun for a flight instructor to get a student in the airplane for the first time and see what their reaction is for that first flight."

Mark Heefner, 2011 graduate, knew he wanted to go into flying since he was about 10-years-old.

"We did a flight into the backwoods and the pilot at the time gave me the yoke and said, 'go ahead and fly,' and I started very simply flying, and fell in love with it," Heefner recalled.

The choice to attend Fairmont State was easy for Heefner. He said this school was closest to his home in Pennsylvania, and the dual degree, also played a major factor in his decision.

"There are only a few aviation schools that offer the ability to be a professional pilot, as well as get an aviation management degree," Heefner said.

One of the safest ways students like Heefner gain practice flying is using the flight simulator.

McKane said there are only 3 colleges or universities with this kind of equipment.

Heefner said everyone usually crashes at least once when they try out the simulator, "and it's a great piece of equipment because you can crash and not even have to worry about being scared."

According to McKane, after four years, students will have spent about 45 hours in the simulator.

McKane said in order to become certified by the federal aviation administration, a pilot-in-training must complete 1000 hours of flying on an actual airplane if they graduate from a collegiate program.

By the end of four years at Fairmont State, they usually graduate with more than 200 hours of flying completed.

This means they still need about 800 hours, so the university guarantees graduates instructor positions upon graduation to build up their flight hours.

Heefner currently teaches there.

He said, "it's very hard to build up your hours any other ways, so the ability to get a job right out of school is definitely a large draw."

Heefner said he would love to fly professionally one day, but also has goals for the management side of the business, and is excited about the future.

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