LSUA’s Professional Aviation Degree Program Gets Off the Ground as DOTD Promotes Louisiana Airports

LSUA has a new program where students can earn a professional aviation degree to become a multi-engine commercial pilot and flight instructor.  And the Department of Transportation and Development is promoting flying in the state with its new Passport program designed to get people to fly into the states more than 60 public use airports.  ABC 31 News Joel Massey has more from a student in the program who is taking her future to the skies.

Bob Burns is a certified flight instructor with the Flightline air service at Buhlow airport.  He is training Melody Gros an LSUA student seeking to earn a degree in professional aviation.  While he is not a part of the LSUA program Burns says the skies the limit for Melody’s future.

Burns said, “Melody and I have been up a couple of times and she is a bright young promising student.”

Gros said, “I’ve always just wanted to fly growing up my grandfather was in the Air Force.  He worked on planes so I’ve always had an interest in the sky.”

Melody tells me about the LSUA program which is still getting off the ground.

“It started in 2021.  What is it like?  It’s pretty good. We had some rough spots in it.  It’s still definitely in the works but it’s looking up.  It’s been pretty well because I’ve been able to meet a lot of people, make a lot of connections and have a lot of experiences I wouldn’t get in a different course or a different class.”

“I want to go into commercial definitely, that’s where I think I can be the most service because there’s a shortage in the industry right now.  And I really hope that this program works because we want to contribute to that shortage.  We want to help.”

Burns describes the method he uses for each session.

“Training sessions involve a preflight where we are actually on the ground and discuss what our goals are for that particular lesson and then we move to the aircraft.  And in the aircraft, we do a preflight on the airplane.  And once we get in the airplane and decide that it’s time to fly, while we’re flying we perform the maneuvers and manipulate the airplane according to what we’ve discussed earlier to try to build the skill level of that particular pilot.  Then once we’re on the ground after that flight we do a debrief and discuss what we did right, what perhaps we need to work on some more, and what our goals are moving forward.”

The Cessna 172 Skyhawk that Melody and Bob checked out is the most manufactured plane in history.  It’s a popular plane for instructors to use and to become a certified pilot you need a minimum of 35 to 40 hours flight time.

Bob says his younger students pick up flying quickly but sometimes he has to slow them down for their own safety.

“I’m an older guy so my reaction time is less than theirs I’m not quite as quick, so it takes a little bit longer for me to work with the student these younger students are very capable and are quick to learn.  They’re eager to learn.  They are excited to learn.  And sometimes they want to move forward a little bit quicker than they should.  So we need to make sure that we keep them in check and make sure that we don’t omit anything that’s important in their flight training.”

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has a new program called Louisiana Airport Passport in conjunction with the international aircraft owners and pilots association.

Burns said, “What it’s designed to do is to encourage people to fly to all of the Louisiana airports as often as they can.  As an incentive to doing that and developing the tourism coming to those airports there are prizes that can be won for people who want to sign up on the program and actually become heavily involved in that. A lot of people don’t realize the diversity of the airports that we have throughout the state for example the Pineville airport is the only airport north of Interstate 10 that has a charted water runway.  Here on lake Buhlow.”

The program encourages anyone interested in flying, not just pilots to experience the different airports around the state.  Burns talks about different things to do once you fly in.

“We’ve got some wonderful airports throughout the state with opportunities for people to fly in near to state parks to fly into what we refer to as a hundred dollar hamburger, albeit it’s more like a 200 dollar hamburger now for lunch or for breakfast.”

Bob has this advice for anyone interested in flying.

“You’re never too old to learn how to fly or to experience aviation. That’s one thing that I would say.  I didn’t start flying until I was 50 years old and I’m 65 now.”

For Melody she says there is nothing quite like the experience of flying.

“It’s amazing.  You’re going down that runway and you’re on the ground and the next second you’re up in the air.  And you have you’re headphones on and you’re talking to people and you’re looking at your instruments and you’re looking at the sky and the ground just steadily getting farther and farther from you.  It’s an experience that you have to get into an airplane to feel.”

The Louisiana Airport Passport program app is scheduled to be available September 15.  Any licensed pilot from any state, their passengers and aviation enthusiasts can register. Participants who sign up for the app and complete certain incentives can win prizes such as aviation patches, flight bags, shirts and even a flight jacket.

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