Aviation is one of the oldest and most popular majors here at Lewis University. Our program is respected all over the country and has provided the best flight training I have ever received. Through it, I have really grown as a pilot. If you are interested in going into the aviation field, this is a great place to start. So what can one do to get started? What does one need? What can one do with this degree after college?
When I was looking at Lewis University, I too had these questions and found the answers mainly through my own experiences. I had about 80 hours in the air already and a private pilot’s license coming into Lewis, so I was able to skip a few classes and get credit for my license. Since your license and ratings are a major part of your college credit at Lewis, it is very important that you tell them about them before enrolling to make sure you are still eligible for the program or what credit you can get.
“So what if I’m coming in as a greenhorn?” No problem. Lewis made their program around students with no flight experience. Your first year focuses on getting your private pilot’s license. From there they will move at your pace to get your instrument rating, commercial pilot rating, multi-engine and/or CFI. Each rating (depending on the student’s pace) should take around a year. Open blocks are available over the summer. If possible, I recommend doing this because it is a waste to lose proficiency and spend half a semester playing catch up. Also, weather usually cooperates a lot better during the summer and it is smart to take advantage of this.
“So as an incoming aviation student what do I need to have?” The first, most important thing is to get a 1st Class Medical. Look online and find a certified Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) and set up an appointment. It is important that you get a 1st Class because that is the medical that is required for the big jobs like airline pilots. If you get a 2nd or 3rd class, they will be looser with their restrictions and may not find a key medical condition that may disqualify you from future jobs. Other things that are helpful to have before the start of the school year is a headset, logbook, a kneeboard, and aviation charts. Headsets range from around $100.00 to $1,000.00 and it is entirely up to you how much you want to spend. A logbook is required to record all of your hours and training. A kneeboard is used to keep your papers and maps in order in the airplane. For Lewis University, get the most current Chicago sectional chart, a current Airport Facility Directory (AFD), and the most current FAA regulations (FAR/AIM). These documents are all good for only a certain amount of time, and it is important that you make sure you have current ones. You will also need flight planning tools like a plotter and an E6B flight computer. Less importantly, you should find a bag to put it all, a fuel strainer, a flight hood, and approach plates. These will be needed later on in your aviation flight training, but there’s nothing wrong with getting them early. The last thing I would recommend is to go up in a small plane if possible before deciding on aviation. Airplanes are not for everyone and it would be smart to make sure you are up to the challenge. This is why Lewis has their flight students up in an airplane within the first two weeks. Lewis offers an aviation summer camp over the summer and is a great opportunity to experience flight for the first time. If you’re not from around here, some airports offer discovery flights for a fee.
“So what can I do with my degree?” Many people think that with this degree, they will be able to graduate and immediately start working for an airline. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The big jobs require a certain amount of hours. At Lewis you won’t graduate with enough to qualify for those jobs. The way most people accumulate those hours (other than joining the military) is by becoming a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and teaching. Eventually, you will qualify to work in whatever branch of aviation you want and realize your dream of flight by rising through the ranks. Hopefully this has been helpful in answering some of your questions and given you a more realistic view of what to expect. Happy flying!