As seen and heard on SC Radio Network, by Renee Sexton
There is a growing demand for pilots who fly both military aircraft and commercial aircraft, and after four dormant decades, The Citadel has revived its Flying Club to train pilots to meet this need.
“We’ve been working on just trying to get as many cadets as possible,” said senior cadet and Flying Club President Kirk Faris. “We’re offering them scholarships and hopefully funding their flight training as much as possible to get them flying so we can fulfill the current shortage in the commercial airline as well as the military pilot arena.”
Faris is using the Flying Club for a future in aviation. The mechanical engineering major begins training as a pilot with the United States Air Force next summer.
“Pretty much all of our members are interested in some career in the aviation sector,” he said.
The club was created in 1939 but in the 1970’s it had to sell two planes and eventually dissolved. Col. Christopher Will of the USAF revived the club in the spring of 2017. About 247 cadets are currently involved.
“2,000 Air Force pilot slots are currently vacant because the commercial airlines are taking so many pilots from the Air Force,” Faris said. “We’re offering subsidized flight training to our members so that helps increase their chances in earning actual contracts with the military or if they want to go into the civilian sector.”
Financial assistance is offered to cadets interested in joining the club so need doesn’t hinder their future plans.
“It’s all based on their current financial need,” Faris said. “So we try to get as many cadets funded with scholarships based on their financial need and we’re always seeking more donations from alumni or the general public.”
At its most recent fundraiser, the club raised nearly $29,000.
“Every penny of that goes back into funding cadets flying,” he said. “Any contributions to the club are greatly appreciated.”
Faris said many of the club’s alumni have reached out to help future aviators.
“On our Facebook page I get probably a message a day from an alumni showing interest in helping out the club, whether it be volunteering their own instruction, leasing their airplanes to the club or just mentoring the cadets in aviation,” Faris said.
Freshmen learn to fly drones. Sophomores and Juniors take flight instruction so by the time they’re seniors, they become trainers for the underclassmen.
“So we create this endless cycle of training our own people instead of going outside of the flight club to spend extra money in training. We want to be our own producing machine,” Faris said.
“We’re trying to get as many cadets flying and expand their interests in aviation and begin their aviation careers because the pilot shortage is such a massive issue in the U.S. and its only going to grow worse in the coming years,” he said.
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