Averett University Welcomes New Plane at Aviation Day 2024

Posted on March 20th, 2024 by Bill Dyer

Averett University’s Department of Aeronautics welcomed the newest member of its impressive fleet of airplanes at its annual Aviation Day on Friday, March 15. The day featured alumni, current students, prospective students and their families, aviation partners and University faculty and staff to celebrate this yearly event.

The highlight of the ceremony, held in an airplane hangar at Averett’s George J. Falk Flight Center at Danville Regional Airport, was the debut of the newest member of the Averett Aeronautics fleet, a Piper Seminole twin-engine plane – the first twin-engine plane for the University. A blessing was given from University Chaplain Sean Timmons before the aircraft was taxied through a stream of cascading water provided by a fire engine and firefighters by the Danville Fire Department.

A throng of nearly 40 alumni from various sectors of the aviation industry returned to the flight center to interact with future aviators, showing them the many paths Averett Aeronautics majors can take upon completing the program. Graduates include pilots all around the globe, flying for every major domestic airline and a number of international airlines, as well as serving as pilots for companies like FedEx and UPS, for a variety of criminal justice agencies, and as commercial pilots for private businesses. Many are also in non-flying jobs, working as industry leaders in grounds operations, aviation marketing and PR, aeronautics education and more.

“It’s your excitement for aviation that truly fuels our commitment to providing you with the best education and the best opportunities available to help your dreams in the sky come true,” said Averett President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks.

She made mention to the strong presence the University has at the Danville Regional Airport. Along with the ever-growing aeronautics program, the University also operates the highly-successful fixed base operation, AU Aviation Services, and how the two separate operations go hand-in-hand to offer Averett Aeronautics students even more opportunities.

“I’m going to call them bragging rights, that I’m going to share about Averett’s aeronautics story,” Franks said. “I point out the incredible work Averett Aviation Services is doing as a fixed-base operator for the Danville Regional Airport, giving our students even greater exposure and just tremendous hands-on learning opportunities.”

Among those in attendance was a group of nearly 30 high school students and their families who are exploring a career in aeronautics. They learned about the various sectors of the industry and Averett’s offerings in sessions throughout the day.

The University recognized the late Ed Vance, who was the first chief flight instructor for Averett, who passed away last year. Dr. Franks paid tribute to his many years of service to the University and the community.

“He was truly the bedrock of this entire program,” she said before presenting a plaque to his family. “We will always strive to build on his legacy and keep his memory alive at Averett.

“Aviation Day is always special, because it’s a celebration of all the many contributors who distinguish Averett’s Aeronautics program,” said Franks. “As we honor the past, we also look toward the future.”

For Averett, that future appears bright.

Along with the new Piper Seminole, Averett’s Aeronautics program is home to several Piper Archer TX planes and additional aircraft which were parked along the tarmac in a static aircraft display. The University has committed to adding an aircraft for every 12 new students in its Aeronautics program. This year, almost 120 students are enrolled, marking a 25% enrollment increase in the program over the past five years.

According to Forbes, a peak shortfall of about 24,000 pilots is anticipated in 2026, representing about 23% of the pilot workforce. Programs like Averett’s are addressing this increasing workforce demand.

“I think what separates our program from a lot of others is these guys back here,” Travis Williams, Averett’s chief flight instructor, said referring to more than two dozen alumni of the program who traveled back to Danville for the event. The assembled graduates took time to introduce themselves and remained after the ceremony to meet with current and prospective students in breakout sections.

“Each of you are a real testament to the extraordinary strength of this program and your return home speaks volumes about your experience here,” Franks said. “It speaks volumes about how others who invested in you, and today is time you are paying that forward.”

“Shake as many of these hands and get to know them,” Williams said. “There’s a good chance they are going to help you get a job. If not your first job, it might be your second.”

Several potential employers were on hand, allowing students the opportunity to network and learn more about partnership programs and job opportunities from alumni, aviation partners and employers for the first hour of the day. Goodyear sponsored and prepared lunch for the day’s attendees, cooking out on the Goodyear blimp grill.