ASU aviation program revival lets students take flight

State-of-the-art air traffic control simulators and an influx of top-flight aircrafts have improved the ASU aviation program beyond what was expected, according to program officials.

Lecturer Jimmy Kimberly witnessed the program’s resurgence following several sub-par years in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Following the attacks, he said the program struggled to keep up its enrollment numbers. The technological improvements began two years ago.

“What we have been able to accomplish in the last couple of years has been a really positive development,” Kimberly said. “We raised the standard and now are on par with the best aviation programs in the country.”

The simulation lab trains students to work in air traffic control using computer screens to present them with common scenarios found in the profession.

Lecturer Jim Anderson said there is a growing demand for air traffic control graduates.

“What took place was that all the air traffic controllers were fired back in 1981 when they went on strike,” Anderson said. “Then, President (Ronald) Reagan hired all brand new ones. Air traffic controllers must retire by their 56th birthday, so many people hired by President Regan are about to leave and open up new spots.”

In their real-world environment simulators, student pilots sit in the cockpit and learn how to keep control of their aircraft while enduring weather-related obstacles.

Laboratory and Technology Coordinator Alan Bradesku works with the various simulators and said the program’s sophistication is an advantage.

“Just knowing that we can change any number of scenario circumstances and really challenge these pilots in training allows them to be ready for any development.” Bradesku said.

The Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airstrip near the Simulation Building serves as the base for the single and double engine airplanes utilized by the students.

Aeronautical management senior Kyle Barry said he was first drawn to ASU by its aviation program, and he is now considering a career flying commercial airliners.

“Getting to fly around with the other members of my flight class, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.” Barry said. “It’s a special program here, and it caters to students of the 21st century.”

As the aviation program continues to grow, administration officials are focusing on raising student enrollment and creating job opportunities for post-graduate students.

One of those measures involves an agreement recently completed with ExpressJet allowing ASU aviation students the opportunity to enroll in the ExpressJet Airline Pilot Pathway Program.

Through this program, participants can begin the pilot screening process early in their college careers, preparing them for the job market.


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