The Central Washington University (CWU) Board of Trustees has approved a plan that allows the university to purchase or lease aircraft over the next few years to accommodate a growing demand for aviation education and flight training.

“This plan will give us much greater flexibility and control over educational content and the quality and reliability of flight training,” noted Paul Ballard, dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, which oversees CWU’s aviation program. “A combination of purchases and leases will allow us to provide students the kind of aircraft they need, when they need them.”

CWU’s contract with its current flight training vendor, IASCO Flight Training (IFT), ends in June 2018. IFT has provided the university with flight training services for the past three years and will complete instruction with any students now enrolled in a flight lab.

From 2014 to 2016, enrolment in the BS Aviation-Professional Pilot program increased from 45 to 162 students. The University will admit more than 60 new students to the program this autumn, who can choose either Commercial Pilot Specialization, which allows students to obtain private pilot certification, an instrument rating, a commercial pilot certificate and a multi-engine rating; or Flight Officer Specialization, which allows them to add a Certified Flight Instructor qualification.

Ballard says the shift to university-run flight training will support more meticulous adherence to aviation accreditation requirements, including preserving the program’s rigorous safety management system. The Aviation Accreditation Board International is currently considering program accreditation.

He also states the change will help support CWU’s long-standing education partnership with Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake. Big Bend students can earn a two-year aviation degree in Moses Lake and then transfer to CWU to complete a baccalaureate degree.

In November 2016, Ellensburg-based Midstate Aviation sold CWU a flight training office facility and a maintenance hangar located on Bowers Field airport property. Additionally, Midstate Aviation sub-leased the main hanger, which is owned by Kittitas County, to CWU.

CWU is now in discussions with Kittitas County and Midstate Aviation to assume certain aviation services and shared responsibilities as the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at Bowers Field. The FBO provides airport users a broad range of aviation services, from fuel to food and lounge services.

“Our goal is not just to grow our aviation program, but also to serve as a great resource for the entire region,” Ballard declared, noting that the CWU aviation program accounts for more than 80% of take-offs and landings at the airport. “We also want to be a robust presence at Bower Field, providing top services to local and visiting aviators.”