UNK Aviation program setting students up for success
UNK offering degrees, training in aviation through student organization
KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - Emily Farley, the President of the University of Nebraska Kearney’s Aviation Program, came to UNK intending to major in business. Now in her junior year, Emily is majoring in innovation systems management with flight emphasis.
“I always used to think, ‘Oh yeah I’d like to get my license someday,’” Farley said. “I wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it but no, I never really thought of it as a career until I came to college.”
The program allows students to get technical, hands-on experience with aircrafts, setting them up for a future in a profession that is in drastic need of pilots.
“Aviation is expanding rapidly,” David Ballinger, the Director of the Aviation Program, said. “Over the next 20 years we’re expected to have a shortage of over 600,00 pilots internationally so the career opportunities are available right now for students.”
Farley joined the program in the fall of 2019, her sophomore year, and a week ago received her UNK Pilot Wings by achieving solo flight status. While working through her instruction she’s enjoying every moment.
“We’re doing something different, whether it’s going somewhere new, learning something new, you get to see so many different places, so many people, that’s my favorite part about being here,” Farley said.
The program is comprised of nearly 60 percent international students and Ballinger would like to see that number increase.
“I don’t think we have any limitations,” Ballinger said. “As I mentioned UNK is a hidden gem. I think we’re, right now a small program that is not well known across the United States; we intend to change that.”
There is increased excitement in the program as they’re changing to a different, newer type of aircraft. If the students like the trial aircraft then the program’s leaders will transition to 2021 models straight from Italy. Each decision Ballinger makes is focused on empowering and bettering the students’ future plans.
“I think the biggest value is seeing when our students graduate that they don’t just have the licenses and number of hours to get a job but have the job that they really want to do,” Ballinger said.
The Aviation Program requires a lot from its members, knowing that when they leave UNK and the program, they’re fully prepared to excel.
“We want to see, not just certified pilots go out, we want qualified pilots, highly qualified pilots,” Denis Boissonneault, Chief Instructor at UNK, said. “There’s a difference between somebody with a certificate, or what everybody says a license, and people who are qualified for the position.”
UNK has partnered with the Nebraska Flight School which offers the program roughly 100 planes at its disposal, meaning if there is a technical issue or a plane can’t go up, they can have a new plane delivered to Kearney ready to go in a few days.
And for the organization’s president, her goals are set.
“My goal right now is to be flying in the airlines.”
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