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A-B Tech in Asheville launching aviation program

Julie Ball – Citizen Times

A-B Tech is partnering with WNC Aviation to launch a new program that will allow students to learn to fly and earn a commercial pilot’s license.

The program is just the third aviation program offered at a North Carolina community college, according to R. J. Corman, chair of the Aviation Management and Career Pilot Technology program at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

Classes begin in August, but the college is holding a pre-registration event Wednesday at WNC Aviation.

Students will earn their two-year associate’s degree. They can either opt for the aviation management track or the “career pilot” option, which allows them to earn a private pilot license, instrument rating certification and finally a commercial pilot license.

“This way students can get the education, get the degree, but also get the FAA credentials which is ultimately the name of the game that you need to be able to get a job,” Corman said.

In addition to A-B Tech tuition and fees, students interested in learning to fly will pay about $40,000 for the flight training portion of the two-year program. Corman said that’s actually below average costs for similar training.

Classes will be held at A-B Tech’s location on Airport Road not far from the Asheville Regional Airport.

The program will offer scholarships, and veterans will be able to use the GI bill to cover the cost of the flight training.

Charles Thomas, president of WNC Aviation, said right now, veterans complete the private pilot certification before the GI bill will cover the instrument pilot training and the commercial pilot training.

“The big difference (with this program) is instead of only being able to use their GI bill for a portion of their training, they’ll be able to use their GI Bill for all of their training,” Thomas said.

For those who graduate with a commercial license, they’ll also need to log fewer hours after they leave the program in order to obtain the FAA status required to fly large jetliners.

Those pilots need what’s referred to as Airline Transport Pilot or ATP certification, which requires 1,500 flight hours. By completing the A-B Tech program, they’ll be able to reduce that amount to 1,250 hours.

“That’s approximately six months of flight training that they won’t have to do,” Corman said.

The program also includes a management option geared toward jobs in airport or airline management.

Corman and Thomas say they know there’s demand for the program. As older pilots continue to retire, Corman said some 30,000 pilots will be needed in the U.S. over the next five years.

Registration hasn’t begun, but already Thomas is hearing from people who want to enroll including a soldier who contacted him from Afghanistan.

“Word of mouth has traveled pretty quick. I know there are lots of veterans who are interested,” Thomas said.

Find out more

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and WNC Aviation will hold a pre-registration event for those interested in the new aviation program 2-4 p.m. March 25 at WNC Aviation. Financial aid and admissions staff will be on hand to talk to potential students about the program.