CSU student takes first solo flight under new aeronautics program

Local News

PROVIDED | Charleston Southern University

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A Charleston Southern University student made history this week by becoming the college’s first aeronautics student to take a solo flight.

Harrison Hunt took flight in a Diamond DA-20 aircraft, which he called a “next level” and liberating experience.

“I was a bit anxious at first because I knew I would be by myself with no instructor as a safety net,” he said. “But the feeling of accomplishment and knowing that I had taken a massive step in the direction of becoming a pilot far overshadowed that.”

The college said Hunt has dreamed of being a pilot for as long as he could remember. The CSU sophomore changed his major to aeronautics from engineering during freshman year.

“I initially planned to be an engineering major to pay for flight school and later become a pilot, but when CSU announced the aeronautics program, I knew I couldn’t let this chance slip through my fingers,” he said.

Charleston Southern announced in August of last year it would begin offering a Bachelor of Science in aeronautics in the fall of 2021 and began offering a three-credit-hour aeronautics course – Introduction to Pilot Training – this past fall.

Students who enroll in the program can choose between three main tracks for becoming a professional pilot: commercial, military, or missionary aviation.

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.

Col. Will said a typical student will solo after 10-12 hours of training in the aircraft, depending upon progression through the training syllabus. But some may solo in as few as eight hours.

Charleston Southern University partners with CRAFT Flight Training and Simulation to offer FAA-approved simulators for flight instruction.

In Hunt’s recorded video of the first solo flight, you may not be able to tell real from the simulated experience. Col. Will said new simulators are just that realistic.

“I love his opening narration, ‘Let’s get to it!’” Col. Will said of the recording. “Harrison is an outstanding student and is also doing very well in CSU’s Air Force ROTC program.”

Two students are now flying in the summer session; however, a full cohort begins this fall with upwards of 30 students expected in the inaugural class.

Col. Will said applications far exceeded expectations. 

CSU’s Bachelor of Science in aeronautics (professional pilot) officially begins this fall and is the only collegiate program in the state of South Carolina.

Will 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.

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