UNO aviation professor earns national recognition

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Gregory Staskiewicz

Rebecca Lutte, an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Aviation Institute, was honored with the V.L. Laursen Award for Outstanding Contributions to Aerospace Education at the 70th Annual University Aviation Association conference in September.

Lutte has a doctorate in public administration specializing in aviation. She is a member of the University Aviation Association’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Committee, which concerns drones. She is also the chairwoman of the Distance Learning Committee.

Lutte works as a distance instructor based in Houston, Texas. “I actually flew myself back from Omaha to Houston yesterday,” she said Thursday. She visits her students at UNO about once a month, but otherwise teaches through web conferences.

“I always want them to know there’s a name and a face on the other end of the distance learning environment for them,” Lutte said.

She teaches both graduate and undergraduate classes, among them Diversity in Aviation, International Aviation and Introduction to Aviation and Aerospace.

Lutte’s recent award is not the only time the Aviation Institute has been recognized for its excellence. The institute won the Loening Trophy in 2012.

“We were very proud of that one,” she said. “That’s for the top-ranking national aviation program for the year.”

Several key factors make UNO’s aviation program great, Lutte said. The program offers students a fast-track option, the Restricted Airline Transport Pilot certification, which allows graduates to serve as co-pilots, rather than full pilots, until they reach the minimum 1,500 hours of flight-time required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Aviation Institute also offers its students pilot pathway programs with three regional airlines: Envoy Air, Express Jet and Endeavor Air. These programs allow students to interview for aviation jobs and receive offers of future employment as early as their sophomore year.

She also said that, overall, the size of the program and the faculty’s diverse experience contributes to its success.

Before she became an instructor at UNO, Lutte worked as a flight instructor at the Offutt Aero Club and a pilot for a small airline in Nebraska.

“I think I really got into aviation because my dad was in the Air Force, so I grew up on Air Force bases and was just always around airports and aviation,” Lutte said. “So I think that was a big part of it,” she added.

Lutte joined the Aviation Institute as an instructor in 1992, two years after it was founded. She said, “I had an opportunity to teach a course, a single course for them, and that turned into a position that has led to 25 years with the Aviation Institute for me.”

When she is not teaching classes, she participates in student and industry organizations. She has worked with the UNO Women in Aviation Chapter as a speaker and supporter.

Lutte is also a member of Next Generation of Aviation Professionals, an initiative of the U.N. intended to address the shortage of qualified aviation personnel.

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the parent organization of Next Generation of Aviation Professionals, by 2026 the industry will need 480,000 new technicians to maintain planes and 350,000 pilots to fly them.

“I think it’s one of the biggest issues that’s facing the industry,” she said. “But it also means that it’s one of the best times I’ve ever seen to get into the aviation industry, in particular, professional flight.”

The aviation industry has changed since Lutte started out as a pilot. In the past, pay was low and promotions came slowly, but now, qualified pilots have many options for employment, as well as significantly higher pay, she said.

“We want to prepare the students to best succeed in their chosen paths, whether it’s professional pilot, airport manager, airline manager, whatever that route can be. We get to know our students well, and we are well-suited to send them anywhere they want to go in the industry,” Lutte said.