Nathan Blackwell Earns LSUA Professional Aviation’s First Private Pilot License

Louisiana State University of Alexandria (LSUA) proudly announces that Nathan Blackwell has become the first student in its Professional Aviation program to earn a private pilot license. The program, which began in 2022, offers students the opportunity to work towards various licenses and ratings, including private pilot, instrument rating, flight instructor rating, multi-engine rating, and multi-engine instructor, all while completing a Bachelor of Science degree.

According to Blackwell, taking off and landing is the most exciting part. He said, “The rush you get going down the runway is unlike anything else I have experienced!” Blackwell noted he hopes to fly commercially for an airline after graduating and earning the requisite flight hours.

Eamon Halpin, LSUA Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, said, “Nathan’s successful check-ride and receipt of his Private Pilot’s license is a testament to his hard work, dedication to the task, and commitment to pursuing a career as a commercial pilot.” Halpin continued, “His accomplishment also reflects the excellent instruction and support he has received from LSUA’s aviation faculty, Shari Drerup and Bill Blackburn, and from the flight instructors at Gulf Coast Aviation. Nathan has set the standard for his fellow aviation students.” 

LSUA has partnered with Gulf Coast Aviation to provide hands-on ground and flight training at Alexandria International Airport (AEX). Students in the Professional Aviation program work closely with full-time flight instructors to gain the necessary hours and ratings required to excel in their aviation careers.

The aviation industry is currently facing a nationwide shortage of pilots, and LSUA’s Professional Aviation program aims to address this issue in Louisiana by graduating a new crop of highly skilled pilots every year. With Nathan Blackwell’s recent accomplishment, the program has proven its ability to produce qualified and competent pilots ready to meet the demands of the aviation industry.

For more information about LSUA’s Professional Aviation program, please visit or contact Eamon Halpin at

Written by Adam Lord

Photo credit – LSUA Strategic Communications