Rich O’Laughlin and Amy Milillo run SNHU’s Aviation Operations and Management program in Nashua (image credit: Nick Klotz)

Do you find yourself staring out the window and dreaming of spending your days among the clouds? A new program at SNHU is helping students tackle their sky-high dreams.

Aviation Operations and Management (AOM) is a new degree being offered to students as a bachelor of science “to provide an immersive experience in both flying and academics,” says SNHU’s academic catalog. It offers a chance for students to get their wings along with a university education to go with it. At the heart of the program are two new recruits to the SNHU family, Rich O’Loughlin, Aviation Operations Administrator and Amy Milillo, Aviation Operations Program Manager.

“We like to call it a ‘pilot’ pilot program,” said O’Laughlin.

What the team at the Nicholas N. Tamposi Aviation Center in Nashua are doing is uncharted territory. There are very few universities one can leave with both a bachelor’s degree and commercial pilot’s licensing and certification.

The Nicholas N. Tamposi Aviation Center in Nashua, NH is a recent SNHU acquisition (image credit: Nick Klotz)

The program leverages both SNHU’s successful COCE online program and its acquisition of Daniel Webster College’s former facility at the Nashua Airport. A five-term intensive flying schedule is followed by two years of normal classes. Students are flying five days a week, with the option of a shuttle to get them between campus and the airfield.

“They graduate high school and come in as early as the summer following their graduation. They basically take their cap and gown off and fly out the next day,” said O’Laughlin.

“What [the students] take each term are two courses directly related to the aviation program and those courses are taken in-house here. We just finished Meteorology and we’re about to start Human Factors in Flight.”


O’Laughlin and Milillo currently have a class of about twenty students who have been flying since June.

By the time the second summer rolls around, the goal is to have students teaching the flight courses to the next round of freshmen. They’ll be certified instructors by then and can use the opportunity to rack up precious airtime, as well as make a dent in the cost of their education.

“It’s wildly appealing to some of these students who have the mind for it and, quite honestly, the stomach for it. Learning how to fly a plane by yourself is not for everyone. It takes a lot of discipline,” said O’Laughlin.

When students are finished with the flight portion of their program, they have the option to continue classes on-campus at SNHU or head back home and take the remainder of their courses through COCE.

The program aims to fill a huge need in the industry of aviation. Between now and 2036, 117,000 new commercial pilots will be needed in North America. In New England, the options for one to learn to fly are incredibly limited, especially since the closure of Daniel Webster College’s programs. As Daniel Webster graduates themselves, O’Laughlin and Milillo stress the importance of building their curriculum fresh to target the needs of today’s aviators.

A tradition calls for the back of a pilot’s shirt to be cut off as a trophy of their first solo flight (image credit: Nick Klotz)

“If you wanted to be a pilot in the northeast your options were so limited. This aviation center was intended for higher education and it wasn’t being utilized,” said O’Laughlin. “We have a totally different mindset and a totally different plan. We like to think we run with the tradition of Daniel Webster behind us but this is a new and exciting program very unique to itself.”

“This airport alone was very quiet for quite some time. This is my home here. For me to see the life come back to this field is huge… I like to look up at the sky and see more aircraft.” Milillo added.

For any current students interested in this new program, O’Laughlin and Milillo assure it isn’t too late to consider flight as an option.

“Come and talk to us because transferring into this program is something we’re working on with students on a case-by-case basis,” said O’Laughlin. “Come and take a look at what SNHU has got going on here.”


Leave a Reply