Aviation department soars into a new generation of education

Eric Rosane, News Editor

On Jan. 25, CWU Aviation hosted an open house at Bowers Field for the public to come view its five new single-engine planes that were commissioned and shipped from Vero Beach, Florida.

This celebration, to many, marked a new era for CWU Aviation. Last June, CWU Board of Trustees approved a plan that would allow the aviation program to cut short its flight contracting with IASCO Flight Training, letting the department take charge of education.

CWU soon got its Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 141 certification, began constructing lesson plans and began a new season of flight training that would allow CWU to provide the commercial airline industry the pilots they need during this recent shortage period.

“It was [more of] an inauguration of the CWU flight school,” Professor and Chair Sundaram (Raj) Nataraja said.

To Raj, this was more than just a celebration of a new fleet. This was a chance to usher in a whole new world of opportunities for not only the university, but for future students.

President James Gaudino addressed the public at the unveiling last Thursday, along with Provost Katherine Frank and senior in the aviation program Deicoh Florentine.

In his speech, Gaudino expressed his worry for the industry and talked about the positive changes that the FAA is instilling to help mitigate the high demands.

“Now they will have to cancel routes because they don’t have pilots,” Gaudino said. “And the routes they’ll cancel first are the routes into the small communities, into Tri-Cities, into Yakima. That will degrade the economic viability of those airports and those airports will begin to close out of necessity.”

The aviation program has faced criticism by many students in the past. In a story by the Observer, many students came forward detailing uncertainty with the quality of resources and disorganization of the department. One student almost opted to leave the program, but stayed because it was the best the Northwest had to offer.

According to Raj, six new planes are expected to join CWU’s fleet in July, with another four also expected to come in September. By the end of 2018, there will be 22 planes in the fleet.