Prospective Aviation Students Hear First-Hand Experiences from Averett Alumni

Posted on March 23rd, 2022 by Matt Bell

Averett University was excited to once again host Aviation Day Friday, March 18, for prospective and current aviation students in Pritchett Auditorium in the Violet T. Frith Fine Arts Center, and throughout campus.

Students had the opportunity to visit with employers in the aviation industry in addition to hearing from Averett alumni about their experiences.

“Today is all about starting to network and getting the experience of our alumni who then help mentor our students through their four years and beyond when they leave here. It’s not just about Averett and our program, it’s about learning the industry and networking,” Chief Flight Instructor Travis Williams said.

High school senior Nicole Cowboy was one of 20 prospective students who had the opportunity to visit campus Friday. What attracted her to Averett was its small size and relatively quick time to get in the air.

Williams noted during the welcome that students can get in the air as early as day two.

“I’ve tried looking at some larger schools, and it seemed like it was crazy getting flights and schedules. Here, it is easy to get it, and it sold me because I can get in the air pretty much any time,” Cowboy said.

With 60 hours under her belt already, Cowboy is a part of the Civil Air Patrol and nearing completion of her private pilot license.

According to mother Elizabeth Cowboy, it was Averett’s willingness to accept Nicole’s hours and work she had put into aviation during high school that made the University desirable during her search.

“Travis is willing to work with us. Some of the other universities didn’t give credit and wanted her to start over. You can really see the investment Averett has made in its aviation program. The amount of volunteerism is great because you get to integrate into the community and not just be a part of campus,” Elizabeth said.

“Averett was different because it is small and the aviation program is huge,” Nicole said.

During the afternoon, students had the opportunity to hear from Averett alumni like Bernie Morrell ’88, who has built a career flying corporate jets around the globe.

“I’m flying 250-300 hours a year, and I’m away from home around 75-100 days per year,” Morrell said.

While the industry has changed over the last 30 years, Morrell said he has enjoyed every minute of flying for companies including Costco, Phillip Morris and currently, Bank of America.

Morrell’s resume includes 12,000 flight hours. He told students they shouldn’t be discouraged on how they can earn hours, because these days there are many avenues for achieving dreams.

“When I first started, once I got married and started a family, there was no going back to gain more hours. Today you can about gain all the hours you need at any time, and still net calls from major airlines worldwide,” Morrell said.

One of the points he drove home with students was to work for a job, and don’t be afraid to push oneself.

Morrell shared with students how he got a job with no experience. It started with a conversation, and ended with a job offer.

“I had no experience flying a jet, but the prospective employer took the time to take me aboard the jet, go over it and we talked for two hours in addition to some flying time. The next day I was signing paperwork,” Morrell said.

Alumnus Philip Owens ’19 told students he applied many times over for pilot jobs he didn’t obtain. After one prospective employer didn’t offer him one job, they turned Owens to a lead for a job in Maine.

“I started as a bi-plane tour pilot, flying around Maine,” Owens said.

Since that time, Owens is now a patrol pilot with the North Carolina Forest Service.

Students were introduced to Averett President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks during the morning, and she told students during her welcome that Averett’s aeronautics students are around the globe in roles beyond flying, as well.

“We have hundreds of aeronautics alumni – and if you said, ‘what are they doing?’ I’d say in a word, ‘everything!’ They are working as professional pilots flying domestic and international flights, some for UPS and FedEx. Some are in aeronautics in non-flying roles. They’re in marketing, publications, in education, and they’re all over,” Franks said.

Morrell told those in attendance that there has never been a better time to get into aviation, with competitive pay and the opportunity to move from the right seat to the left in a short amount of time. He also praised the University’s aeronautics program.

“I can’t say enough good things about Averett’s program. If I didn’t think it was, I wouldn’t have spent the last 20 years driving back here promoting the program,” Morrell said.

Averett has had a presence at Danville Regional Airport for 40 years, operating its aeronautics degree program out of the George J. Falk Flight Operations Center. More than 100 Averett Aeronautics majors are learning the business of aviation or receiving in-flight training at Averett’s FAA-approved 141-certified flight school.

In July 2021, Averett became the fixed-based operator of the airport – part of the University’s strategic plan to expand and leverage innovative partnerships in the region and beyond.

Check out more photos from Aviation Day by clicking here