High school students get hands-on experience at Auburn University's first aviation camp

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Auburn University hosted its first aviation camp for rising 9th through 12th grade students June 7-12 to give them hands-on experience while exploring the different careers in aviation, attending lectures with guest speakers, going on field trips and participating in simulator, aircraft and flight line activities.

On Thursday, June 11, Auburn alumnus and pilot Matt West flew a CRJ200 regional jet from Atlanta into Auburn University Regional Airport. The ExpressJet aircraft, operated for Delta Airlines, was the largest plane to ever come through the Auburn airport.

"It is an outstanding program and I am thrilled to death to be a part of it," said West, a 2001 Auburn graduate. "I actually went to Auburn strictly for the aviation program. It is very unique and has grown a lot. It has absolutely prepared me for what I am doing today. It is also awesome to see ExpressJet reach out to the aviation community and by coming down here it shows progression through the Auburn program."

West said he enjoyed having the opportunity to talk to the students and share his experiences with them.

"When I found out I was coming back to Auburn I felt like a kid in a candy store," he said. "Auburn has changed quite a bit since I was in school but I'm honored to be back. It is wonderful seeing these students and feeling their excitement, especially because I remember being in their footsteps. These are high school students who will hopefully be Auburn aviation management majors one day."

Auburn's aviation camp accepted 23 students from all over the country to attend a week full of aviation experiences. Bill Hutto, airport and Aviation Center director at Auburn University Regional Airport, described his appreciation for ExpressJet and how successful the first year of camp has been.

"Through Auburn University and ExpressJet, we have the opportunity to share aviation experiences with students from all over the country. We appreciate ExpressJet for taking this regional jet out of service and flying it down for these students. We are thankful for their support and look forward to growing this program," he said.

While the aviation camp has assisted in university recruiting, it has focused on reinforcing interests of science, technology, engineering and aviation in the campers that have attended. James Birdsong, camp director and lecturer in aviation and supply chain management at Auburn, described how important summer youth programs are and how much the students have enjoyed their experiences at camp.

"Summer youth programs are a great way to extend knowledge and give students hand-on experiences. We really want to motivate and inspire these kids because they might be the next big entrepreneurs. The sky is the limit for entrepreneurial ideas. The campers have loved being here. It has been a very hands on experience for them and they even get to see drones today to see how they work since it's a growing technology," he said.

Many of the campers have had a lot of flying experience while some have had none. As for Claire Horack, a junior high school student from Huntsville, she is attending this camp to further her training.

"I want to be a private pilot just like my dad. I am looking for a way to get more training and see different options for my future. I think it's really beneficial that this camp will help all of us receive more hours and I will be able to advance my training with my dad," she said.

Auburn University has been providing aviation education for more than 80 years and has been conducting flight training since 1941, focusing on the knowledge and skills that are needed to be a professional in this field. The 2015 aviation camp combined faculty and staff from Auburn's Aviation Center, Auburn University Regional Airport, the Harbert College of Business and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering in order to give these students multiple hands-on experiences and aviation knowledge that will help further their passion in the aviation field.

For more information on the aviation camp, visit this website. For more information on Auburn's Aviation Management program, visit the Aviation Management website.

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.