There is a growing demand for pilots who can fly both military and commercial aircraft. In response, The Citadel has revived its Flying Club for the first time in four decades to train pilots to meet this need.
“We’ve been working on just trying to get as many cadets as possible,” senior cadet and Flying Club President Kirk Faris said. “We’re offering them scholarships and hopefully funding their flight training as much as possible to get them flying.”
Faris is using the Flying Club for a personal future in aviation. The mechanical engineering major will begin training as an Air Force pilot 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 had to sell two planes in the 1970s and eventually dissolved. Air Force Col. Christopher Will revived the club in spring 2017 and now nearly 250 cadets are 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.”
The club raised nearly $29,000 at a recent fundraiser. Faris said “every penny” goes towards cadet aviation programs.
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,” he said. “Whether it be volunteering their own instruction, leasing their airplanes to the club or just mentoring the cadets in aviation.”
Freshmen learn to fly drones. Sophomores and juniors take flight instruction so they can become trainers for the underclassmen by their senior year.
“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.”