person using flight simulator
UH Hilo aeronautical science student in the Simulation Lab. (Photo credit: Josephine Mischon, University Relations)

This spring, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo celebrated its first two graduates from the aeronautical science program (AERS). David Freedman and Trek Tanabe completed all requirements, and senior Kiana Burgher has just a few more credits to go. All three participated in commencement on May 13.

The program hosted a wrap party in May attended by students, instructors, Chancellor Bonnie Irwin and former U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, an adjunct faculty member who has been a champion of AERS.

The program is once again accepting applications for the fall semester after being on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s so exciting to see some of our students cross the finish line and to be able to start admitting students again to this promising program,” Irwin said.

Aeronautical science takes flight

The bachelor of science in aeronautical science is being offered provisionally beginning in fall 2023—meaning that final steps need to be taken in order to reach full accreditation.

“We are very excited to be offering a pathway to a professional aviation career while earning a bachelor’s degree at UH Hilo,” said Marc Steinhilber, a lecturer in aeronautical science. “We have two pathways in our aeronautical science program. The pilot pathway is the first step in an exciting and lucrative career as an airline pilot. We also have an aerial information technology pathway leading to professional certification as a commercial drone operator.”

For students currently in other programs at the university who may be interested in becoming a pilot or operating unmanned drones, freshman level AERS courses will be offered again during the 2023–24 academic year, and students enrolled at UH Hilo will be able to change their majors during the fall semester. Future incoming students (fall 2024 and beyond) will be able to declare AERS as their major at the time of application to UH Hilo.

For more information, contact Steinhilber at or (808) 932-7341.

To read more, visit UH Hilo Stories.

—By Susan Enright

large group of people
UH Hilo’s aeronautical science program celebrated its first graduates at a “wrap party” on May 3, 2023, at the campus Simulation Lab. (Photo credit: Josephine Mischon, University Relations)