South Carolina is one of only two states without a collegiate aeronautics program, but not for long. Charleston Southern University plans to offer a Bachelor of Science in aeronautics (Professional Pilot) beginning in fall of 2021. Students in the program will eventually be able to choose between three main tracks: commercial, military or missionary aviation.
“As we look to the future, Charleston Southern will maintain our presence at the leading edge of innovation and impact,” said CSU President Dr. Dondi Costin. “Our Aeronautics program is a natural extension of the university’s vision of integrating faith in learning, leading and serving as we prepare servant leaders to pursue significant lives. By preparing pilots to impact their spheres of influence as commercial, military or missionary pilots, we extend our reach into every corner of the globe.”
Colonel Christopher “C.J.” Will, U.S. Air Force (retired), is the founding chair of CSU’s new Aeronautics Department, which is located within the College of Science and Mathematics. Will is also the founder and CEO of Lowcountry Aviation Association, a nonprofit dedicated to educating, empowering and inspiring students interested in pursuing aviation careers.
Will is no stranger to aeronautics. He is a combat command pilot, military instructor pilot, and holds FAA Airline transport pilot, commercial pilot, flight instructor (single and multi-engine) and remote pilot operator certifications and ratings. He holds a Juris Doctorate from SMU Dedman School of Law and served as a Judge Advocate (JAG) for the U.S. Air Force prior to earning his wings. Will has practiced as an aviation attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice and most recently was the Commander of The Citadel’s AFROTC program. He has taught aviation safety, ethics, business and aviation law at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University since 2001.
Will said he and his wife have enjoyed living in Charleston and feel called to inspire and empower area youth through mentoring, teaching, coaching and outreach. He said the area is a perfect match for an aeronautics program, especially when that program is built on faith from the ground up. “Charleston has some of the best flying weather in the U.S., and the demand for professional aviation education and flight training is sky-high,” said Will. He is looking to grow the CSU program and plans for the first diverse group of Professional Pilots to graduate from the program in 2025.
Professional pilot program students will conduct flight training each semester at either Summerville or Charleston International airports in safe and modern Diamond aircraft. Flight safety will be built into the program at a foundational level. “Everything we do will be part of an overarching and fully integrated safety program. From the first class to the last check ride, the safety and security of our students will always come first,” Will said.
Dr. Todd Ashby, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, said, “I’m highly confident that the Lord sent us the perfect director in C.J. Will. His background as an aviation attorney, his impressive career as an accomplished aviator and his love of aviation are all packaged in the heart of a teacher. That’s what I call a winning combination.”
The professional pilot degree will be complemented by an Aviation & Space Management degree, an Aeronautics Science minor, and an Aviation Maintenance Management technical degree. A three-credit-hour aeronautics course—Introduction to Pilot Training—will be offered this fall.
“We are building on CSU’s commitment to finding needs in the community and meeting them,” said Costin. “The downturn in airline activity right now due to COVID-19 does not mitigate the looming pilot shortage as older pilots reach mandatory retirement age in the next few years. On the other side of this pandemic, the world’s economy will demand a significant uptick in flights, so the market will need more pilots. And in terms of sharing the gospel to the ends of the earth, the need for missionary pilots will always exist. Lord willing, Charleston Southern will be there to help meet those needs.”
To learn more about the newest addition to CSU’s College of Science and Mathematics, visit www.charlestonsouthern.edu/aeronautics.