Liberty University’s High School Aviation Program Helps Students Earn Their Wings Early, Jumpstarts Careers

New Horizons participant Dalton Joyce (left) discusses a flight plan with Kaitlyn Allen, his Liberty University flight instructor. (Photo by Kevin Manguiob/Liberty University)

Liberty University’s School of Aeronautics (SOA) launched the New Horizons High School Aviation Program last summer in response to the looming pilot shortage (over 500,000 pilots will be needed over the next 20 years, according to a report by Boeing). A year ago, the program held its first solo academy, where high school students learn to fly a plane by themselves, and this summer, six graduates of that program are taking a new private pilot certification course.

New Horizons helps high schoolers interested in the industry to get an early start — and save money. It can cost approximately $10,000-$15,000 to earn a private pilot license, but students can attend Liberty’s solo academy for less than $1,000 and take the private pilot course for less than $5,000. There are significant financial savings for students who complete their solo requirements in less than 10 hours, which, thus far, applies to all graduates of the program.

“The New Horizons program helps to spark an interest in aviation in kids,” said Chris Cartwright, program director. “And then, the program provides a way to meet that interest and help them get a head start through flight training in high school.”

Participants who get their private pilot license can also get a jumpstart on an aviation degree, with the possibility of earning up to 12 college credits.

“We are getting tons of training a lot earlier than most people,” said Joel Cashman, a 19-year-old preparing to start at Liberty SOA in the fall. “It’s a pretty big head start on college, and it is a fraction of the cost.”

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