November 29, 2023

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GI Bill helps former Marine mechanic earn MTSU degree, become pilot

Travis Houser, recent graduate of Middle Tennessee State University’s Aeronautical Science master’s program, poses in January 2018 at the Murfreesboro Airport in Murfreesboro, Tenn., after completing his very first flight as part of one of the university’s various aviation programs.

When Travis Houser, recent graduate of Middle Tennessee State University’s Aeronautical Science master’s program, finished his Marine service in 2014, he had no plans to become a pilot.

He did not even have plans to attend college. But he had always dreamed of flying.    

“I always wanted to be a pilot but couldn’t afford it, and I couldn’t afford college to be an officer in the Marines,” Houser said. “Being an aircraft mechanic got me close enough to that dream.”  

Almost eight years later, Houser has hit nearly 1,500 flight hours as a first officer for Republic Airlines, and flying, unsurprisingly, is his favorite part of the new job.    

“It is a ton of fun, especially going into New York and being at eye level with the skyscrapers,” he said.   

Houser used his mechanic experience after leaving the military and a certification to land jobs doing aircraft maintenance for companies such as Boeing and Gulfstream. An opportunity with aerospace manufacturer Embraer in Nashville, Tennessee, prompted his move to Murfreesboro.      

Travis Houser, recent graduate of Middle Tennessee State University's Aeronautical Science master's program, sits in the cockpit at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 24, 2021, after completing his probationary training period as a first officer for Republic Airlines.

“Suddenly finding myself five minutes away from MTSU, I figured I might as well use my GI Bill to learn how to fly,” Houser said.    

With his tuition and flight training covered along with a housing allowance, Houser pursued and graduated with his bachelor’s in aerospace with a concentration in professional pilot in 2020 — completing the degree in only two and a half years.