New Chief Flight Instructor Brings 40 Years of Military, Higher Education Experience

photo of Ralph Gibbs

For professional pilots the skies are home but, after four decades of military and aviation education experience, Ralph Gibbs has found his professional heaven here on earth in Eastern Kentucky University’s Aviation Program.

“This is the number one aviation education job in the country because it’s the only one where someone like me can teach both in the cockpit and the classroom,” said Gibbs, who left Oregon to become chief flight instructor in one of EKU’s most rapidly growing programs.

Gibbs has only been on the job a few weeks, but his enthusiasm and excitement for the program’s sky-high potential are palpable.

Already, the University boasts one twin-engine and six single-engine aircraft, numbers that will soon grow, as well as two state-of-the-art flight simulators. To further bolster the program, the University has also recently taken the unusual step to become the fixed-base operator at the recently enhanced Madison Airport a few miles south of the Richmond campus.

Prospective students are taking notice. The professional flight option has seen its number of majors jump from 38 in Fall 2009 to 144 this fall. Likewise, students pursuing the aerospace management track have increased from 20 in 2010 to 62 this fall.

Gibbs is encouraged by the strong support the program enjoys from EKU President Doug Whitlock, College of Business and Technology Dean Bob Rogow, among others.

Eastern’s aviation program, which offers the only four-year, university-based aviation degree in Kentucky, comprises the two degree paths: aerospace management and professional flight. Gibbs will oversee the professional pilot option, in which students receive flight certification in Private Pilot, Instrument, Commercial, Flight Instructor, CFII, and Multi-Engine. In addition, they experience real world flight operations, actual weather, long-range flights, and mountain operations.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects employment of aircraft pilots to increase by as much as 10 percent through 2014. “You cannot get a pilot job with an airline without a bachelor’s degree,” Gibbs noted. “EKU is a prestigious educational institution, so anyone who graduates from our Professional Flight program and has a single-engine rating and additional multi-engine time goes to the top of a resume stack when applying for a job.”

During a 26-year career with the U.S. Marine Corps, Gibbs served as a flight instructor with the Naval Aviation Training Command and an aircraft maintenance officer, among many other roles. Since retiring from the military in 1998, Gibbs has taught at Columbia Gorge Community College, Oregon Institute of Technology and, most recently, in Central Oregon Community College’s aviation program. At EKU, he will oversee curriculum development, aviation safety and maintenance, advising and seven flight instructors.

Gibbs earned a bachelor’s degree from Portland State University in 1981 and a MBA degree with an emphasis in aerospace from Embry-Riddle University in 1995. He is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in business, with an emphasis in aerospace, from Northcentral University in Prescott, Ariz.

For more information about EKU’s Aviation Program, visit or call 859-622-1014.

Published on August 05, 2011

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