Hopeful student pilots left looking for a place to land


Courtesy of Jonah Gilley

CWU junior Jonah Gilley piloting a small aircraft from Arlington to Bellingham.

Mitchell Roland, Senior Reporter

CWU’s suspension of admittance into their professional pilot program has left several students’ futures up in the air.

Citing the lack of a long-term facility, among other reasons, CWU announced on June 16 that they have suspended enrollment into the program and rescinded admission to students who were already accepted for the fall. While those already in the program weren’t impacted, a proposal by the President’s Budget Advisory Committee (PBAC) would eliminate the program entirely.

This announcement has caused hopeful student pilots to adjust their plans.

Jarek Jellison, a junior, said he was disappointed to hear that admissions into the program had been suspended. While his application for the fall had been rejected, Jellison said it wouldn’t have made a difference.

“If I did get accepted, it would have been taken away from me,” Jellison said.

Jellison said he picked CWU because of the aviation program, and he had been working to get into it since he arrived on campus. Jellison enjoys flying because it gives him a different perspective on his surroundings.

“It’s just something you don’t get to see that much,” Jellison said.

Now that CWU’s program is no longer an option, he has been looking at other schools to transfer to. While some community colleges in the area offer similar programs, CWU’s program is unique in the region, which has complicated Jellison’s search for a new school.

“They are the only four-year program in this region of the country that has an aviation program like this, so it’s really difficult to find something similar,” Jellison said. “[Community colleges are] not quite the same as what [CWU] has.”

Right now, Jellison is unsure what his next step is going to be and said changing schools would be risky.

“Getting into a college is pretty difficult,” Jellison said. “And having to move colleges once you started somewhere is equally as difficult, if not more.”

However, Jellison’s long term plan hasn’t changed. He still plans on getting his commercial pilot’s license and eventually working for a major airline. While CWU’s press release cited decreased air travel due to COVID-19 as one of the reasons for suspending admittance into the program, Jellison thinks the industry will return soon.

“The aviation industry as a whole has been hit pretty hard with the pandemic,” Jellison said. “What people are failing to realize is that it’s only a temporary thing.”

Junior Jonah Gilley picked CWU for the professional pilot program and had planned on joining the program in the fall as he begins his second year on campus.

“I was really hoping to go to [CWU] for their aviation program,” Gilley said. “It was obviously a big bummer.”

Now that this program is no longer an option, Gilley has had to make a new plan. After looking at other programs in the region, Gilley said he plans on staying at CWU and has changed his major to economics. After he graduates, Gilley then plans on doing his flight training privately before hopefully becoming a flight instructor and eventually a commercial pilot.

“It hasn’t deterred me from being a pilot, it’s just that I won’t be doing my training through the school,” Gilley said.

However, this path will take Gilley longer to get his pilot’s license. And since he already has a private pilot’s license, Gilley would have been an advanced student in CWU’s program.

“Obviously, going to an accredited university with the connections that the school has would have been an awesome leg up in the industry,” Gilley said.

While Gilley’s path has hit some turbulence, he remains committed to being a pilot.

“It’s been a dream for me my entire life, to fly,” Gilley said. “It just opens up a whole world of adventure that you otherwise wouldn’t get.”