Textron Aviation donates use of new Cessna Skyhawk 172 to Auburn aviation program

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Auburn University aviation students love flying—especially on a school day field trip to Textron Aviation headquarters in Wichita, Kansas, where they were presented with a new Cessna Skyhawk 172 aircraft.

Seventeen students along with Auburn University Aviation Center personnel recently boarded an American Eagle jet, operated by Envoy Air, at the Auburn University Regional Airport and made the 1 hour 45-minute flight to Kansas.

After a tour of Textron Aviation's manufacturing facility, junior Hampton McDonald and recent graduate Ashley Tucker took the controls of the Auburn-logoed Skyhawk and piloted it six hours back to Auburn.

"I am really happy to fly this plane back to Auburn," said McDonald of Atlanta, a professional flight management major and a flight instructor with the Auburn University Aviation Center. "Having this aircraft will allow us to better advertise our program and it will support our efforts to recruit students. From an employment standpoint, there is a huge demand for aviation professionals."

Textron Aviation, home to the Cessna brand, is providing the Skyhawk for six months for educational events and pilot training through its Top Hawk partnership with top university aviation schools. The Skyhawk holds four people and is equipped with the latest Garmin G1000 NXi avionics, Garmin Virb Camera and Bose A20 Aviation Headsets.

"We plan to take this aircraft to air shows, career fairs and as many events as we can to share aviation with young people," said Bill Hutto, director of the Auburn University Aviation Center. "We are very grateful to Textron Aviation for the plane and to Envoy Air [a subsidiary of American Airlines] for providing the jet and crew which allowed us to bring our students to Wichita."

Three to five educational stops are scheduled monthly for Auburn aviation students and the Skyhawk, including the Smoky Mountain Air Show in April in Knoxville, Tennessee; Thunder in the Valley Air Show in Columbus, Georgia, also in April; Tuskegee Fly-In in May; Auburn University Aviation Camp in June; and the Pensacola Air Show in July.

"As an alum, it is very exciting to be asked to fly this plane to Auburn," said Tucker, a native of Birmingham who graduated in December with a degree in media studies and minors in aviation and German.

"I grew up in an aviation household, so I was very familiar with aviation, but I had never wanted to do it on my own. Once I found out there was an Auburn program, and I was already here, I thought 'that sounds like a great thing to get into.' So I minored in it, and I ended up deciding that's what I wanted to do for my career."

Textron Aviation's Top Hawk program began in 2015.

"Our goal is to promote general aviation and the next generation of pilots," said Jennifer Harden, Textron Aviation regional sales director for professional flight training. "We are honored to have such a great university like Auburn as one of our Top Hawk partners for this year."

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