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Elizabeth City State University, partners aim to expand aviation education throughout NC

Inside of aircraft at Piedmont Flight Training.
Elizabeth City State University
Elizabeth City State University
Inside of aircraft at Piedmont Flight Training.

Elizabeth City State University is partnering with Piedmont Flight Training and AeroX to expand aviation education to students across North Carolina.

Piedmont Flight Training, located in Winston-Salem, is an aviation school that certifies pilots.

AeroX is a non-profit organization aimed at advancing what’s known as the air mobility market, which includes self-driving “flying cars,” unmanned drones, and other aircraft technology.

ECSU is the only university in the state that offers a four-year Aviation Science and Unmanned Aircraft Systems degree.

“It’s our signature program, and we’ve seen significant growth since I’ve been here as chancellor,” said ECSU Chancellor Karrie Dixon.

David Mounts, with Piedmont Flight Training, and Basil Yap, from AeroX, collaborated with Dixon to figure out how to make the program accessible to more students.

The trio decided to start in Winston-Salem.

"Having this partnership in Winston-Salem was very important to us, because North Carolina is the leader in aviation, and has been for decades,” said Dixon. “And part of that was we were looking to move our aviation science program to an online degree.”

Piedmont Flight Training will be the exclusive provider of flight training services for the HBCU’s aviation science degree.

The flight school will give certain students the opportunity to enroll at ECSU, take classes online, and conduct their flight hours in Winston-Salem.

ECSU is rolling it out initially to 10 counties before expanding further to other parts of the state. They are Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Randolph, Rowan, Stanly, and Union counties.

Mounts, the owner of Piedmont Flight Training, said his school has trained thousands of pilots for over 30 years.

“The mean salary in aviation is around $100,000 a year now,” said Mounts. “And so it's a very, very well paying area. I felt like we could really advance the opportunities for our state by thinking about ways to be involved in the coming and emerging markets.”

Yap, the president of AeroX, said the work his organization adds to the collaboration is going to advance the development of technology in aviation for students and the aviation industry.

“We had the first air taxi demonstration in the entire nation in Raleigh in 2020, and we really continue to maintain this leadership role,” Yap added. “And because of that, the North Carolina General Assembly has invested $5 million into AeroX to help us build essentially the drone traffic management system of the future.”

Chancellor Dixon said it also helps that tuition is now more affordable for students. The NC Promise Tuition Plan – a statewide plan to reduce tuition costs – allows in-state students to pay only $500 a semester, and out-of-state students $2,500 a semester.

“There are no restrictions around NC promise, you can be any age, you can come from any county, you can be at any socio economic status,” said Dixon. “It’s for everyone as long as you apply and you’re accepted.”

Sharryse Piggott is WUNC’s PM Reporter.
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