Aviation sciences major, taking flight from day one

Junior aviation science major, Vanessa Vargas, poses from the cockpit of a Cessna 172. Cole Tompkins | Multimedia Editor

By David Garza | Reporter

Not every incoming student has the opportunity to begin taking classes for their major, or get hands-on experience in their field, during their first week of class at Baylor. That is not the case for aviation sciences majors, who spend their first week spending time in the air learning to fly an airplane with an instructor.

Dallas junior Vanessa Vargas is an aviation sciences major who has been flying planes since her freshman year.

“I wanted to be a pilot since middle school,” Vargas said, “I was just this crazy, outgoing girl who told everyone, ‘I’m going to be a pilot’. I didn’t know this was a degree—I was just looking more into the Air Force. It wasn’t until my mom did some research and she saw that colleges do have aviation, and then we saw Baylor.”

During Vargas’ first flight, she sat on the left seat of the plane while the flight instructor sat on the right. She described the process as a dream.

“I didn’t know I was going to be the pilot—it was my first flight,” Vargas said. “I didn’t know anything about airplanes. I just knew I wanted to fly. The instructor walked me through the process and it was just a fire hydrant of information…[then] he said, ‘All right, Vanessa, you can take off.’”

Vargas has received her commercial pilot’s license. She is also the vice president of Baylor Aviation Organization, which hosts speakers from different airlines and travels to a variety of facilities like United Airlines in Denver, and attends air shows.

Vargas said that recently, a Baylor alum was even hired by United Airlines.

“It is so cool…one of our own—he made it,” Vargas said.

The aviation sciences major offers courses in private pilot flight, advanced aviation, aircraft systems, aviation law and aerodynamics.

Dr. William Cade is the director of the Baylor Institute for Air Science and is the professor for intro to meteorology and a space weather class, both of which are open to all Baylor students.

Baylor recently partnered with flight training company Universal Flight Concepts to provide students with an “exceptional flight training experience and set a new standard for collegiate flight training,” Cade said.

Vargas said that the company has helped Baylor to open a new flight school, which opened in the beginning of August.

Baylor has an existing partnership with Texas State Technical College and Cade said that Universal Flight Concepts adds an additional flight training option.

“One of the reasons we wanted to pursue this option for the new flight training school is because we were limited to how many students we could bring in each year, and we wanted to expand our flight training capability, and this enabled us to do that,” Cade said. “There’s a huge pilot shortage right now. Airlines are in pretty desperate need of pilots and that demand for pilots is only going to increase as we go into the future.”

Cade said that from their first semester, students are immersed in the aviation environment. There are reasons behind this—the courses are ‘sequential’ and students need to get their private pilot’s license before they can move on and acquire another license.

“We want to get them started as early as possible to make sure they have enough time to work through all the flight training for their graduation,” Cade said. “We’ve had students that were medically disqualified, so situations like that are ones we want to identify as early as possible so that if they need to change majors, they haven’t spent a lot of time doing a lot of things that won’t necessarily transfer over to a new major.”

To learn more about Baylor’s aviation major and program, visit the Baylor website.