Dixons pledge $200K to AU flight program

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The board of directors of the Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation has pledged $200,000 to the Auburn University College of Business in support of flight education.

The gift will be used to purchase a glass cockpit flight-training device and to create an endowment to support proper maintenance and upkeep of the equipment.

“It’s going to be a flight simulator for the students in the College of Business in the flight training program,” said Doris Tyler, president of the Foundation. “The endowment will be used to not only keep up maintenance, but also make any needed software upgrades.”

Solon Dixon, a 1926 graduate of Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), was a leader in the forestry industry. Dixon began his career, however, in the aeronautical engineering and flight education programs at Auburn, instructing student pilots for nearly a decade.

“I don’t know how (Solon Dixon) got involved with the flight program, but I know he did it for a few years before he came home to join his brother in the forestry business,” Martha Dixon said. “I’m sure he enjoyed it, but he had to give up flying when he went into business. Auburn wanted to do this in his memory and as thanks for what he did with the program.”

The Auburn University Board of Trustees approved a request at its last meeting to name the simulator after Dixon, and it will be known as the Solon Dixon Simulator.

Tyler said it is not immediately known when the simulator will be installed and ready for students’ use.

“It has not been installed yet and I know that Auburn is currently in the process of taking bids,” Tyler said. “We are not quite sure when it will be in place; it depends on how long the bid process takes.”

The professional flight program uses single-engine and light twin-engine aircraft, along with an advanced flight simulation laboratory, in courses leading to various pilot certificates and ratings. Program administrators estimate they will be able to reduce each student’s required flight time by 20 hours through the use of the simulator, saving more than 6,000 gallons of aviation fuel consumption per year.

“Integrating the glass cockpit flight training device into our curriculum will be invaluable to our students,” said Paul Bobrowski, dean of Auburn University’s College of Business. “Providing the glass cockpit experience — so that our students become familiar with the avionics technology of today’s aircraft — will allow our students to be more competitive in this technology driven industry. The college is grateful for the Dixon Foundation’s commitment to the flight education program.”

Tyler said she hopes the simulator will enable Auburn University’s aeronautical engineering and flight education students to be some of the most highly trained in the nation.

“We know that the glass simulator will improve the training for students and enable them to be more competitive as they pursue career opportunities, and that it will be a reminder of Mr. Dixon’s role in the formulation of the earliest flight programs at Auburn University,” Tyler said.

“The Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation Board of Directors is pleased to partner with Auburn University and the College of Business to enhance the educational opportunities for students in the flight program.”

The Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation has been one of the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences’ leading contributors for more than 30 years. The foundation has given more than $1.9 million to Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and the College of Agriculture.