Should You Go To College For Aviation?
Should You Go To College For Aviation?

LAGRANGE, Ga. — Hannah Godfrey studies political science and psychology at LaGrange College, but now she’s shifting gears in pursuit of another career. Originally, she had plans to go to law school. Now, she’s trading the courtroom for a cockpit.

Godfrey considered going into the Navy or the Air Force in High School. Thanks to a new partnership between LaGrange College and Florida-based Paragon Flight Training School, Godfrey will spend the next two years learning how to fly planes and become a commercial pilot.

“I feel like every time you fly, it’s like a ‘this isn’t happening experience,'” Godfrey said. “You’re off the ground, looking out the window, and it’s just like ‘How?’ There’s so much potential with pay, but also with career growth and opportunity in the field.”
LaGrange College and city leaders held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday morning to cement the partnership that would launch the aviation program. More than 50 prospective students have already applied to the program. This marks the second collegiate aviation initiative in Georgia, according to officials on hand at the ceremony.

Paragon chief flight instructor Jeffrey Wolf said FAA-mandated retirements at the age of 65 are causing private and commercial pilot shortages nationwide. He said as a result, demand for new pilots is soaring.
“Aviation right now is about as hot as it could possibly get,” Wolf said. “And the airlines obviously have to be successful in that hiring, because if they don’t, the planes aren’t going to be flying and delays in travel will occur.”

Many flights were canceled in 2022 due to severe weather and technical problems. However, more recent flights have been delayed or canceled due to pilot strikes. Reports show airlines are expecting a shortage of 34,000 pilots by 2030. In 2007, Congress raised the pilot retirement age from 60 to 65. There are talks to possibly raise the age again to 67. Many other countries have higher or no retirement age including Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Airline Pilots Association, International, America’s biggest pilot’s union, argued it may not be safe to keep older pilots since many could have undiagnosed health issues. Many airlines, the FAA and the White House also oppose raising the mandatory retirement age, claiming there needs to be more research into the issue.

Meantime, LaGrange College hopes to fill a need, offering an aviation minor that includes mixing training and simulation on campus with real-time flying in Cessna Skyhawks at the LaGrange-Callaway Airport. The program will take off starting in Fall 2023.

As one of the first students to take part in the new aviation program, Godfrey is going full throttle with new opportunities.
“It excites me to be somebody who’s paving the way for more females to be in the program,” Godfrey said. “It really drives me to push forward in this. I know it won’t be an easy path, but I think it’ll be worth it in the end for sure.”

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