ASU According To You: An Aviation Student

Each week reporter Noelle Lilley will tackle a different major, tour its school and talk to its students in the hopes of highlighting the uniqueness and diversity of our beloved university. This is "ASU According To You".

"We're soaring! Flying! There's not a star in heaven that we can't reach!"

Yes, I am singing High School Musical. No, that's not something you can major in (yet). However, the program I'm covering this week still revolves around flying, and that is the Aviation School on the Polytechnic campus in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. This required me to go boldly where few Downtown Phoenix students have gone before — Mesa!

Just kidding! (It was a 40 minute drive though.)

Aeronautical management technology sophomore Ryan Nolan is known as air transportation management with a concentration in professional flight. Upon graduation, Nolan said he plans to go on to become a flight instructor and eventually an airline pilot. 

A native of Chicago, this "windy city" local came to ASU specifically for its aviation program. 

"A lot of colleges don’t have an aviation program at all," Nolan said. 

The Aviation School offers a wide variety of majors from air traffic control to unmanned aerial systems. ASU works in collaboration with the ATP Flight School  at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, which is just a short six minute walk from the Polytechnic campus. The program's degrees are accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI), formerly the Council on Aviation Accreditation.

In his freshman year, Nolan said he was able to receive his private pilot certificate and will go on to get his commercial pilot license, which will allow him to be paid. He said that the program is extremely hands-on, with students beginning the basics of their flight classes the first week of school.

Nolan took me around the school's Simulator Building, and I was in awe as I observed state-of-the-art technology. This place was the real deal. 

I saw everything from flight simulators to laboratories. The school allows tours of this building throughout the year by appointment. The facilities allow students to have a realistic experience and develop genuine skills that will not only prepare them for the workforce but make them competitive applicants in their field. 

The school also has a variety of different clubs including the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), Alpha Eta Rho American and Women in Aviation International (WAI). Nolan is a part of the co-ed club, which is particularly important because the campus is predominantly male-dominated. 

What Nolan said he likes most about the program is how qualified and accomplished the faculty is. He said that most of the school's professors have an array of knowledge and information to share so that students can learn from their stories.

"I think it’s great that the majority of our professors have field experience," Nolan said.

He said that the field of aviation is always changing and having great professors helps students to weigh their options and make good career decisions once they graduation.

Nolan explained that many students may be initially wary about the Aviation School being on the Polytechnic campus as they may feel cut off from aspects of campus life on the other campuses. 

"Sometimes I wish I was able to live at Tempe and get that large university experience, but I’m grateful that even though it’s on a separate campus ASU makes it easy to still experience that," he said.

Nolan also said that living on campus is useful to a busy aviation major. He said he believes that the campus is much more academically driven.   

If you are interested in anything in the world of flight then I highly recommend a visit to the Aviation school where when it comes to your dreams, the sky is (literally) the limit.

Related links:

ASU aviation program revival lets students take flight

Air Devils compete in national competitions, provide engineers with experience

Reach the reporter at or follow her @noelledl on Twitter.

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