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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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With high hopes, aviation students flock to MSU Mankato

Elizabeth Baier · Mankato, Minn. · Oct 27, 2015 MPR


Tyler Spear and Brett Gagan settled into their seats inside the cockpit.

"All right, ready for takeoff?" asked Spear.

"Yep," replied Gagan. "Clear takeoff."

Although their instrument panel showed all the switches and screens of a CRJ 700 regional jet, and the view out their window showed a runway at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Spear and Gagan weren't going anywhere. They were in a simulator located in a dimly lit room at Minnesota State University Mankato.

MSU has Minnesota's only four-year bachelor's degree program in aviation. The program has grown markedly in recent years, thanks in part to the rule that forces commercial pilots out of the cockpit at age 65.

According to the Air Lines Pilots Association, 21,000 pilots are expected to retire from large U.S. carriers in the next 10 years. The coming wave of baby boomer retirements will hit the aviation industry hard.

Spear, of Brooklyn Park, and Gagan, of Hayward, Wis., both seniors, have an excellent chance of landing jobs after they finish their schooling and log the necessary flight hours.

"I always had an interest in aviation, so I decided it would be a good career choice," Gagan said. "It's always a challenge and I'd have fun with it, so I wouldn't work a day in my life, really."

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