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ASU offers state-of-the-art aviation program

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MESA, Ariz. -

So you, or your 18-year-old dream of becoming a pilot or an air traffic controller. You may not know Arizona State University offers a four-year degree -- it's the only aviation program in the PAC 12 and best of all, if you graduate, you're almost guaranteed a job right out of school.

Tucked away near Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport is one of education's best kept secrets: ASU's Polytechnic campus and a state of the art aviation school.

This is hands on -- these students may someday help bring your airplane in for a safe landing.

"So this is exactly the same layout that occurs on the job when you get hired as an air traffic controller."

Christina Delgado graduated from the program, trained with the Federal Aviation Administration and went right to work as an air traffic controller.

"You walk in there and you already have the knowledge of aircraft, aircraft characteristics, runway separation, you know how to talk to airplanes because you've already done that through the simulation," she said.

These simulators are state of the art.  This program replicates the tower at Sky Harbor Airport.  Students work the planes in the rain, at night, even in a severe dust storm.  They're put through every conceivable crisis.

The professors are professionals, like 30-year FAA controller Joe Gridley.

"To learn to be a controller is a lot like learning a musical instrument," he said.  "It's just a matter of practice -- that's the only way you can get good at it."

And there are jobs out there.  The FAA plans on hiring nearly 12,000 new air traffic controllers by 2021.

Pilots are training here too.  Jillian Dauscher is a sophomore doing time in the air in the King Air Simulator, landing this day in Honolulu.

"It feels really good.  A lot of friends.. they just have no idea what they're going to do when they get out of school and I have a set path and a set goal and I know I can achieve it," she said.

Britteny Ortiz, a junior, is also training to be a pilot.

"Get a degree and then you flight instruct and go straight to the airlines or some people go to the military.  It just depends on what they want and their goals," she said.

Their timing couldn't be better.  In 2012, Boeing projected that nearly half a million new commercial pilots would be needed in the next two decades.

Students can prepare using a regional jet simulator.  Here at ASU, not only do they teach them to fly, they teach them about the inner workings of the airplane.

"We want 'em to know not just how to do it, but why it works that way."

Jimmy Anderson flew Air Force jets and later was a pilot for Southwest Airlines.  He's impressed with this new generation of aviators.

"I believe they could move right into the right seat of the jet with training at the airline and be ready to go," he said.

One of the chief selling points of ASU's aviation program: directly across the street from the classrooms are the runways.

"Students can walk over here and fly these beautiful airplanes.. they're brand new right off the assembly line."

For Elijah Hite, the ASU program has prepared him for a career.

"I would say it's close to 100 percent.  We have agreements with industry and our students go off into industry as well and they blow 'em away," he said.

Later this year, Hite will report for training as an Air Force pilot.  He wants to fly the massive C-17s.

"In this industry, you're always going to have a door to open and go through."

A four-year degree in aviation at ASU currently costs about $60,000, but ASU says there is scholarship money out there.  They even require freshmen to apply for scholarship money to offset costs.

Online: campus.asu.edu/polytechnic

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