A bill introduced this week in the North Carolina legislature would authorize state reimbursement for a local aviation program that trains students in various aviation and aerospace fields—including air traffic control, aviation management, and flight training.
Robeson Community College’s aerospace program was originally founded in 2005 and is one of four satellite schools affiliated with the University of North Dakota’s Aerospace Foundation—one of the country’s premiere aviation programs.
Under the legislation (S.B.720), participation in the Robeson program counts toward the computing of full-time equivalent students in state budgeting formulas to qualify for funding along with other curricula like math, science, and business
“We are very proud of the aerospace program in our community,” said the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. David Weinstein, who represents Hoke and Robeson counties. “It’s a great program to train new pilots and controllers…and it strengthens the college by adding a program of national prominence.”
The Robeson aviation program has been a real boon for the Lumberton Municipal Airport—as the school recently erected an $800,000 hangar along with $5.5 million in other airport improvements that have been made since the inception of the program.
The school came under scrutiny this summer when the state auditor claimed the college’s investment in the program was not paying off in enrollment numbers. But the community college's president, Dr. Charles Chrestman, said student enrollment is up and interest in the program is growing.
Students completing the two-year Robeson Part 141 flight training program earn a private pilot certificate, commercial pilot certificate, and instrument rating. They also can work toward a four-year University of North Dakota degree in air traffic control, commercial aviation, flight education, aviation systems management, airport management, or aviation management.
Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy, called the bill “important legislation to establish a funding system that puts this important career training on equal footing with other local programs and will ensure that this program can continue to prepare students for successful careers in aviation.”
AOPA Southeast Regional Representative Bob Minter will meet this session with state legislators to urge adoption of the bill. If passed, the legislation would take effect on July 1.