The University of Georgia’s Aviation Club provides unique opportunities for students to reach for their piloting dreams and acquire piloting licenses, no matter what their background may look like.
Incoming Aviation Club president and senior public relations major Amelia Green is not particularly interested in pursuing a career as a pilot, but her lifelong involvement in piloting drew her to the organization. Green enjoys being able to “nerd out” with fellow club members and getting the opportunity to relate to others who share this niche interest, she said.
Since its founding in 2009, club membership has grown to over 80 students: 50% of them of which are female and 30% of which are pilots, according to an email. Aviation Club advisor John Knox, an associate professor of geography in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, attributes these unique demographics to the strides of previous club leaders.
“Historically, the aviation industry has been heavily male,” Knox said. “I think of our club's representation as part of a lot of hard work on the part of previous officers to make sure that we didn't just have a small subset of people that were involved. Some of our strongest and most active leaders in this club over the last several years have been women.”
Students need no prior qualifications to become a club member, Knox said. Whether one is interested in pursuing aviation as a career or simply wanting to take it up as a hobby, there will always be a space for their participation. The club’s members have a wide range of majors and interests.
“Basically, it's a big group that's at the intersection of social activities and future professional activities,” Knox said. “We also have talks by people that work for companies that essentially tell the students what you need to get a job and what a job is like in the aviation industry.”
Piloting is not a cheap hobby, Knox said, and training to fly and getting a pilot’s license requires money that may be difficult for college students to acquire. Because of this, the Aviation Club recently hosted its first club “fly-in,” which raised over $10,000 for two scholarships for UGA students pursuing their pilot licenses, according to an email.
A “fly-in” is an event in which people are invited to fly into an airport and attend auctions and other events to raise money. The club provided pork barbecue and hosted a cornhole tournament, creating an atmosphere that was “kind of like throwing a party at your house,” Knox said.
The club’s inaugural fly-in took place at the Athens-Ben Epps Airport, where club meetings are also typically held.
“I think that it showed the airport and the community that we're not just a bunch of students who hang around talking about airplanes … we're actually trying to make a difference in the community,” Green said. “Even though there's not a major at UGA for [aviation], you can still do it –– you’ve just got to make it happen.”
The Aviation Club believes that in its subversion of limitations that may inhibit students from exploring the aviation field, such as gender inequality and expensive licensing fees, it is able to provide a safe space for students interested in piloting.
“I'm not a pilot and I am a meteorologist by training,” Knox said. “This will be my 13th year, I believe, as the adviser of the club, and I certainly have benefited from meeting all the extraordinary students from different backgrounds. Some have gone on to careers in aviation, some have gone on to very different kinds of pursuits, but they all share a love of flying.”