Desoto County News

Two-year aviation program to center at Olive Branch Airport

Southwest Tennessee Community College program is the first of its type in Tennessee

The Olive Branch Airport is becoming an education center as well as a transportation center, with the addition of a new aviation program to work out of the airport through Southwest Tennessee Community College. 

A recent Open House was held at the terminal to celebrate the launch of Tennessee’s first-ever, two-year aviation program.  The Aviation Operations Technology Program offers three concentrations: aviation administration, flight dispatcher and pilot. 

The program is starting because the aviation industry is facing a critical shortage of qualified employees in all facets of the industry. Southwest’s new aviation program will provide students with industry-relevant coursework and state-of-the-art training that leads to an Associate of Applied Science in Aviation Operations Technology degree. The program will help address the critical shortage of commercial pilots; target underrepresented and low-income students to increase diversity and inclusion in the industry; and fuel the pipeline to jobs with FedEx and other major airlines in Memphis and beyond. Southwest introduced initial coursework for the program in spring and is set to officially launch the first cohort of the academic year this fall semester, 2022.

Southwest Tennessee Community College President Tracy D. Hall welcomes attendees at the Olive Branch Airport on Aug. 30, 2022 to the official launch of the college’s new Aviation Operations Technology program.
(Southwest Tennessee Community College)

“Aviation is a critical industry to the Mid-South economy and this program is another shining example of why community colleges exist,” Dr. Tracy D. Hall, President of Southwest Tennessee Community College said.  “This new program will help address the critical shortage of commercial pilots and fuel the pipeline to jobs with FedEx and other major airlines in Memphis and beyond.”

Students who earn the A.A.S. in Aviation Operations Technology will be prepared to compete for entry-level aviation jobs ranging from crew scheduling to commercial pilots. “Graduates could enter the workforce immediately as flight dispatchers and safety coordinators earning $40,000 a year and higher,” Southwest Business and Technologies Dean Robin Cole said. “Graduates who complete the requisite flight training can work as commercial pilots and earn nearly $60,000 a year starting out.”

Captain Albert Glenn, director of the Luke Weathers Flight Academy, stands beside Tennessee Board of Regents guests at Southwest Tennessee Community College’s aviation open house Aug. 30, 2022 at the Olive Branch Airport. (Photo Courtesy of Southwest Tennessee Community College)

Pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), students may begin taking classes relative to the major when spring semester begins January 18, 2022, which means the first graduating class could be as early as Fall 2024. 

Students may apply to enroll at Southwest at Tuition-free college, scholarships and laptops are available to eligible students. For more information about the aviation program, contact Dean of Business and Technologies Robin Cole at

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