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Famous aviator and poet John Gillespie Magee, Jr. wrote in his homage to aviation, High Flight, in 1941:

“I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;”

For Dustin Ratliff, recent EKU graduate and winner of the 2014 Joseph Schwendeman Outstanding Senior in Aviation, the exhilarating feeling of slipping “the bonds of earth” accurately describes the “incredible sense of freedom” he feels while flying.

“I have done many things in my life from working my way up into management at a retail chain to producing drawings as a tooling engineer. I wanted to learn to fly and make a career out of aviation and I have. It was a very difficult choice to start a new career with no background in aviation. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and set an example for my daughter to follow. EKU and aviation in general has helped me to become the person that I have always wanted to be.”

Ratliff, from Pikeville, KY, chose EKU because the program requirements for an aviation degree “set a student up for success. EKU has a great reputation in the aviation community and most graduates are able to quickly land that coveted first job.”

“To anyone who wants to pursue a career in aviation, I recommend EKU!”


EKU Aviation Student Dustin Ratliff behind the scenes

Q & A with Dustin Ratliff

What is something you have learned since joining the aviation program that the average person might not know?

Aviators will openly admit to mistakes and errors they make in hopes that it will prevent the next person from making the same mistake. Pride is put on the shelf in the interest of safety.

Why is flying important to you?

It is exhilarating. Flying has become a way of life. It helps reinforce the idea that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to.

Is aviation a symbol of success?

It is. Learning to fly is no easy feat and it is certainly not for everyone. There are so many factors in play when it comes to flying. I feel that anyone who can obtain their pilot’s licenses and make a career out of flying is sure to be a success if they choose to be. It takes a very special dedicated individual to fly airplanes.

What sets EKU’s aviation program apart from other programs in the country? What was it that made it a better choice for you?

Perhaps the biggest thing that sets EKU aviation apart is the 1,000-hour restricted ATP certification. Students complete the program with 100 hours of multi-engine time. As a working commercial pilot currently, I cannot express enough how valuable the multi-engine time is. You also gain your bachelor’s degree along with your flight ratings. The four-year degree is essential for continued success in this business. What made it the best choice for me was it was local, affordable, and offered courses in everything that I wanted to achieve.

What are your plans now that you have your degree?

Now that I have my degree, I plan to continue flight instruction until I have reached the necessary hours to obtain my ATP certification. There are so many career avenues you can go down using your flying skills. You are not limited.

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.

–John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

EKU Aviation Student Dustin Ratliff flying a plane EKU Aviation Student Dustin Ratliff with wife


Learn more…

Aviation Program

Applied Engineering & Technology Department

College of Business & Technology