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SDSU Aviation Handbook

Section - School of Health and Consumer Sciences


Thank you for choosing SDSU Aviation to start your career. On behalf of the alumni, students and aviation team, welcome to the South Dakota State University Aviation Program!

We are excited that you will be joining us and know that you probably have a few questions about aviation. Aviation, by its very nature, stands out a little differently than other university programs and courses. We want to make sure your training goes as smoothly, efficiently and most importantly, as safely as possible. In order to make that happen, please take a little time to read about our program. 

We are seeing tremendous growth in aviation this year-it is truly a great time to be in aviation! To help with the transition and student success, students majoring in aviation will start their flight training in their second year. Not to worry; you will still be done in four years; this just allows the best allocation of resources across the program and increases the chances of your success. 

The following pages contain information about the medical certificate, financial aid, required documentation and finally frequently asked questions. As a smaller aviation program, we try hard to be up front about expectations and give you the information that you need to be successful in your aviation career.

As always, if you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact any of the aviation team to assist you. Our contact information is located on the last page.

Welcome to the program,

Maria Julius
Aviation Program Coordinator


An FAA Medical Certificate is required to operate an aircraft under the privileges of a pilot certificate. There are three different levels of certificates:

  • First Class - Airline Transport Pilots
  • Second Class - Commercial Pilots
  • Third Class - will only be Private Pilots

Please complete a 1st or 2nd class medical before enrolling in a flight course (usually the fall semester of your sophomore year).

There are many doctors approved to do aviation medicals around the area; however, many of them only do FAA exams on certain days of the month. If the examiner has a long wait, please try a different doctor. For most students, your medical will be good for most of the duration of your time here at SDSU. We suggest that you obtain a 2nd class medical at the beginning of your flight training so there are no surprises later on. The exam generally costs $150-$250. Aviation Medical Examiners (AME) are medical doctors that have additional training in aviation related medicine and may even be your family doctor, to find a list of qualified examiners please visit: Here in Brookings - Dr. Matt Bien and Dr. Jill Kruse with Avera Medical Clinic do aviation exams. 

Many conditions can limit your ability to obtain a FAA medical, including mental health diagnosis, color blindness, driving violations, felonies, diabetes, medications and other medical and/or legal limitations. If you have significant medical or legal problems that might pose an issue during your medical exam, please bring copies of medical or court records with you when you visit your Aviation Medical Examiner. Please note that alcohol and drug convictions (paying a fine or attending a court-required class is considered a conviction) will follow you into your aviation career. Professional pilots are held to a higher standard and we expect the same out of you!

Please visit and fill out the pre-exam questionnaire that will help you navigate the medical process.

Aviation examiners can grant waivers to physical requirements for medical certificates on a limited basis. AME's are the final authority on what condition or medication may be an issue in obtaining a medical certificate. Waivers for most medical conditions will require that the application be forwarded to the FAA headquarters in Oklahoma City for review. The review process often takes months to complete. Therefore, we recommend students schedule an appointment with an AME to obtain a medical certificate as early as possible so that any delays to not affect your flight training. 

A valid medical certificate will be required for all students enrolled in AVIA 171 (flight course) on the first day of the semester.


The Transportation Security Administration requires that all students must provide documentation of their citizenship before they begin any flight training. These requirements are listed on the TSA website and should be closely read and followed because of ongoing changes.

If you are a United States Citizen:

You must provide one of the following items to our Chief of Flight Instructor (Dan Moerke) to prove your US citizenship:

  1. Valid unexpired U.S. Passport
  2. Original birth certificate of the United States and government-issued picture ID. (most common)
  3. Original certification of birth abroad with raised seal (Form FS-545 or DS-1350) and government-issued picture ID.
  4. Original certificate of U.S. Citizenship with raised seal (Form N-560 or N-561), or a Certificate of Repatriation (Form N-581), and government-issued picture ID.
  5. Original U.S. naturalization certificate with raised seal (Form N-550 or N-570) and government-issued picture ID.

Most students use a certified or original birth certificate to fulfill this requirement. *A certified copy means it is state issued and has a stamp or raised seal on it. It cannot be a photocopy, fax or a commemorative certificate.

We only need to view it once a semester so once we view it; we will record the information and give it back to you for safekeeping.

If you are a Resident Alien (green-card holder) or a visa holder:

Non-U.S. citizens are encouraged to contact the chief pilot, Dan Moerke, and he will provide you with detailed instructions on completing the proof of citizenship requirement. You must notify the Transportation Security Administration of your intent to begin flight training at For more information please see:

If you are not a U.S. citizen, the process can take up to several months, so please start early! This needs to happen no later than 30 days PRIOR to the start of the semester. If this is not completed at least 30 days prior to the start of the semester, you will be asked to drop the course and begin next year.       

If you have any questions concerning TSA requirements, please contact Dan Moerke for assistance at 605-688-5871. 

For each flight, you are required to carry a valid government issued identification card with you. This usually entails a driver’s license, state issued identification card or military issued identification card.


SDSU Financial Aid Office

Enrollment Services Center Box 511A
Brookings, SD 57007
Phone: 605-688-4695

Aviation is an investment in you! With that in mind, you need to have your finances in place BEFORE you start your flight training so you can complete each rating on time. Please talk to the Financial Aid office in order to receive the most up to date information. From the time you submit a completed application, it usually takes 14 days to get your funding in hand, so it is imperative that you start the process early! If you are using funding from your military service, please inform your advisor during the orientation process, as there a few changes to your program of study. 

Students are responsible for paying for their flight training and any additional reporting requirements are the students’ responsibility.  Not having the proper amount of money available is the single biggest detractor to flight training at SDSU - please be prepared financially when starting the aviation program. 

Please pay special attention to any restrictions, qualifications or criteria set by your funding source (such as the Veterans Administration, athletic scholarships, ROTC scholarships, academic scholarships or loans). If your funding source sets specific criteria on your training, please let the flight training coordinator know so that we can adjust your flight training. 

SDSU Average Flight Costs

Financing Aviation 101

Most aviation students pay for the additional expense of flight training by first completing the FAFSA available through the SDSU Financial Aid website. From there, money is usually obtained in the following order:

  1. Scholarships
  2. Grants
  3. Personal savings/family help
  4. Federal subsidized loans
  5. Federal unsubsidized loans
  6. Alternative educational loans through private companies (this is most common among aviation students to pay for flight training).

The typical plan for most aviation students is to complete the FAFSA form, take out all the subsidized and unsubsidized loans, then apply for alternative loans. Stafford loans are provided to students and are limited to the following: $5,500 PER YEAR for freshman, $6,500 PER YEAR for sophomores and $7,500 PER YEAR for juniors and seniors (see financial aid for updated information). These are loans that are provided to students with no co-sign needed. In order to receive Stafford loan money the student must be enrolled at least ½ time (six credits or more). Students may apply for additional money through parental loans or alternative education loans - both of which are loans that need a co-signer. There are various lenders for these type loans and information may be obtained through the SDSU financial aid office located in the Enrollment Services Center on Medary Avenue. Almost all alternative loans require a credit-worthy co-signer in addition to the student. Additional information about these loans is available at:

Each flight course includes fees to pay for approximately 60% of your flying for each semester and are paid up front (think preloaded like your dining plan) as part of your tuition and fees payment. Please be prepared to pay for the remaining training immediately after each flight.

Once you use all your balance associated with the fee attached to each course, you will pay as you go for each flight using Hobo Dough campus debit system. This is normal and should be expected.  

Students are required to pay for each flight/ground session immediately at the end of the lesson. We do not allow any negative accounts. 

It is most advantageous to apply for student loans, either individual or co-signed, as far in advance as possible. Not applying for the financial aid in time will delay flight training and may result in you being dropped from your flight courses, it adds stress and is one of the single biggest reasons students struggle in our program. 

It is the students’ responsibly to maintain money in their account so that training delays do not occur. If funds are not available to fly, the student will be taken off the master schedule for the semester and will have to reschedule all flights once funding is replenished. This will create a break in training and will generally result in extra costs and lost flight time. Please work with the Financial Aid office to make sure you have funds available to fly. 

If you do run low on flight training funds, please see the chief flight instructor, aviation manager or the program coordinator well in advance of when you anticipate needing additional funding and we can help work with financial aid to increase your budget. While we do not advocate taking out more than you need, especially at the beginning of flight training to take out more, rather than less, money so that you can focus on flying instead of applying for additional loans. 

Payment for flight courses

The student is responsible for ensuring they have sufficient funds for the flight BEFORE they fly the lesson. At SDSU, students use an online Hobo Dough debit system to pay for costs associated with flight activities once the course fee runs out. Students will pay for each flight once the airplane is checked back in at the desk. Students will do this by way of their student ID card (Hobo Dough) issued by SDSU Card Services. On average, each flight costs approximately $275 for the airplane, fuel, instructor, and ground training. Students (or others) can transfer money onto their Hobo Dough card online.

Flight Course Refund policy

If a student withdraws from a flight course, only the unused portion of the flight fee will be refunded after all applicable bills have been paid in full and then only through a petition process. If you find yourself in a circumstance that might affect your ability to finish a flight course, it is your responsibly to work with your instructor and advisor to come up with a solution. Communication is key in our program! 

Drug and Alcohol policy

Per University Policy 4:7, SDSU is committed to providing a drug free workplace and school in compliance with the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989. Accordingly, SDSU maintains a learning and teaching environment where the possession, use, manufacture, or distribution of alcohol, marijuana, or other controlled substances (hereafter, “drug”) is prohibited. SDSU Aviation is also particularly aware of the high level of performance required in order to operate and support aircraft safely. SDSU Aviation therefore requires all of its students and staff to be free of any drug or chemical impairments or influence during any training or operational activities. Alcohol or drug convictions have lasting impacts on your aviation career and any legal action may limit your ability to operate aircraft and/or to gain employment after graduation.  Removal from flight operations may occur at any time due to legal, academic, or professional misconduct.

Academic Standing Policy

As South Dakota’s only Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI)-accredited aviation flight program, the SDSU Aviation Program is committed to providing a safe, cost-effective program. Being a smaller program allows us to be involved with many of the students in a way that you will not find at larger schools. The goal of the whole aviation team is to provide the best level of service with the resources at our disposal to provide the best education possible for the students.    

In order to provide a high standard of training, all SDSU Aviation majors must maintain good academic standing in order to maintain status as an aviation major. In order to remain in good standing, a student must maintain a 2.00 GPA, have a current medical certificate and not have a negative flight account balance. What this means is your first year at SDSU is about demonstrating that you can be successful in the college environment so that when we add in the flight courses (and expenses associated with the classes) you will be successful.  

Consistent and satisfactory progress in flight training is also required to maintain in good standing. If a student allows long periods between flights or regularly cancels flights, they are not consistent. If the student is unprepared for ground or flight training, or does not follow the rules and procedures in place, they are not performing satisfactorily.

Our attendance policy in the flight syllabus sets reasonable limits in order to afford the student the best opportunity to finish the flight training in three years and the aviation degree in four years. Occasionally there will be unforeseen circumstances that hinder progress. Communication is vital to ensure all parties are aware of what is going on. The success of the SDSU Aviation Program depends upon the combined efforts and dedication of both the students and the Aviation Team.

Technology requirements

SDSU Aviation highly encourages all incoming students to purchase at least a 16GB Apple iPad, iPad Mini or other tablet device for use both in the academic classroom and in the flight courses. The Jackrabbit Central - Student Union sells iPads or you may choose one from another source. SDSU does have adequate computers for students to use located throughout campus; however, many of our students find it helpful to purchase a personal computer. All SDSU Aviation academic courses and flight courses utilize web based applications and programs.  Many of the course books and applications are web-based and free from the FAA which will offset the cost of the iPad or other device over the course of four years. Most tablets will work fine, the Aviation faculty all use iPads and we have resources to troubleshoot the devices here on campus.

Transferring in FAA ratings/certificates

Credit MAY be awarded for FAA Private Pilot Certificate earned prior to enrollment through the Credit by Exam process. However, once a student enrolls in the SDSU Aviation Program, all subsequent flight training must be accomplished at SDSU, with SDSU aircraft and instructors. The process of earning credit towards graduation begins with the presentation of original and valid FAA-issued pilot certificates and/or ratings to the Chief Flight Instructor prior to the start of any flight training at SDSU. Once that is complete, the Chief Flight Instructor will conduct an evaluation flight to assess the skills of the transferring pilot. The Chief Flight Instructor will determine if the student possesses the required flight and ground ability consistent with the certificate or rating requested to transfer in AND believes the student is proficient enough to proceed with the next flight rating or certificate, credit will be awarded. 

The FAA Private Pilot certificate earns you credit for AVIA 170 and AVIA 171 (5 credits total). Once you complete AVIA 372, we will complete a Credit By Examination form and fee of $181.50 the credits will be added to your transcript.

Flight rating credit only applies to students seeking an aviation education degree and will not be used toward the completion of the aviation minor or other degree. While every flight hour counts towards your total time and experience, SDSU generally will not award any credit for incomplete ratings and certificates. If you are close to completing a checkride, it is best to finish the rating before you enroll in the flight courses.

If you are planning to complete any flight certificates or ratings, please talk to Maria Julius before you start training. Due to recent FAA regulations, not completing all flight training with SDSU could hinder your job prospects for those intending to work for the airlines. 

Generally, only the Private Pilot certificate is transferable into the Aviation Education Degree Program.

Transferring aviation specific courses

The university and/or department reserves the right to deny credits in transfer which are:

  1. not consistent with the mission and charter of the granting institution;
  2. not approved for transfer based on the evaluation of this university; or
  3. not accredited by a regional accreditation association, e.g., North Central Association.

Credit will be considered for transfer only from the institution actually granting the credit. Transfer credit will not be granted for remedial work. Typically, you must have passed an FAA flight test to qualify to transfer that credit into SDSU.

Students completing a Bachelors in Science degree with a specialization in Aviation Education AND complete their instrument and commercial certificates at SDSU are qualified for the Restricted Airline Transport Pilot (R-ATP) certificate. This certificate allows for students who choose to go to the airlines to fly as a pilot after gaining 1,000 total hours of flight time, instead of 1,500 hours for non-graduates.

All transfer credit must be evaluated prior to the first semester enrolled. Any aviation specific credits transferred in can and may affect your ability to qualify for the R-ATP certificate. 

Flight instruction

Almost all flight instruction accomplished for credit toward the SDSU Aviation Education degree is conducted under 14CFR Part 141 (FAA Flight School). To train under part 61, students must receive per rating/certificate permission from the Chief Flight Instructor and then only with certain stipulations.

Minimum flight requirements for the aviation education major include:

  1. Private Pilot,
  2. Instrument Rating,
  3. Commercial Pilot Single-engine,
  4. Commercial Pilot Multi-engine
  5. Flight Instructor,
  6. Flight Instructor-Instrument,
  7. Multiengine Flight Instructor.

Any ratings beyond the Private Pilot that you do not earn at SDSU will make you ineligible for the Reduced Airline Transport Pilot Certificate. While we encourage students to gain as many flight hours and aviation experiences as possible, all flight instruction used to fulfill degree requirements will be conducted in SDSU aircraft/training devices and with SDSU instructors; private aircraft are not allowed to be used.

Flight Course Enrollment

In order to enroll in the next flight course, you must be complete with the previous flight course two weeks before the start of the semester. If you are not complete with the previous flight course by two weeks before the start of the semester, you will need to wait and enroll in the next semester. Only exception: you completed all required progress checks two weeks prior to the beginning of the semester and are ONLY waiting on the FAA checkride. This allows time to complete FAA paperwork and create a flight schedule for the next semester. 

Incomplete grades

If for some reason you do not complete your required flight training in the semester enrolled and you would like to continue to finish the flight course after the semester ends, you must complete the Incomplete “I” contract your instructor provides in class. You then have one semester to complete the required outcomes of the course. If you do not complete the outcomes in the Incomplete semester, your flight course grade will turn to an F and you will have to reenroll in the flight course. When you reenroll you will have to pay for the tuition and fees but may petition to have the aviation flight charge waived. You will then have the new semester to complete the flight course and will be required to pay using Hobo Dough. Please see your course instructor for additional information.