IFT honors contract with Central, flights expected to begin soon

Julia Martinez, Online Editor

After several weeks of uncertainty, Central’s aviation program has salvaged its contract with IASCO Flight Training. Students have been inundated with confusing information, but are now being told they will soon be back in the air. There has been a 29 percent drop in enrollment in the program since fall 2013. There are currently 98 students enrolled. Over four years, aviation program students will pay an additional $3,375 a quarter in fees with the new flight program. 


On Aug. 22, IASCO Flight Training (IFT), which had been awarded a contract in April by the university to provide flight training, informed the administration that it was going to suspend flight training for the time being and offered no explanation as to why.

What IFT didn’t mention, according to aviation department chair Amy Hoover, was that they were in the process of being bought out by a Chinese company and couldn’t proceed with flight training until the contract could be reviewed by the company’s new owner.

The contract required IFT to be present in Ellensburg to begin flight training on Sept. 15. The administration was exploring the possibilities of legal action against IFT for being out of compliance with their contract, according to public affairs director Linda Schactler, but no suit was ever filed.

“We were ready to go and approved and everything on the 18th of August,” Hoover said, but “the company we were contracted with was being bought out.”

Since then, the aviation department has met with the new owner, reviewing the contract that had been worked on for the past eight months with the previous owner of IFT, Hoover said.

Last week, President Gaudino and the new investors had a letter of agreement drawn up stating that IFT was going to “honor the contract and move forward,” Hoover said. Attorneys representing both sides were present.

Approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the county are currently the only thing keeping students from flying.  According to Hoover, the FAA has already given its stamp of approval on the curriculum and the flight-training site; the maintenance site, however, will be approved soon.

The aviation department has been working with the county since February to gain necessary approvals, Hoover said. The airport is owned by the county, which then leases out space and hangars. Hoover said that Central will utilize land that had been previously leased and is waiting on gate-access approvals, among other things.

READY TO FLY - IASCO Flight Training has brought three planes to Bowers Field. The rest of the fleet is expected to arrive soon from Seattle and California.
Julia Martinez
READY TO FLY – IASCO Flight Training has brought three planes to Bowers Field. The rest of the fleet is expected to arrive soon from Seattle and California.



The aviation department was then tasked with informing its students about the sudden change in flight training.

Hoover said that the department crafted a statement, which then had to be approved by public relations. Once the approval was given, the statement was emailed to students. The problem, Hoover said, was that the release of the statement coincided with the university’s migration of email client services.

“We couldn’t get it to work,” Hoover said. “It sounds like a cop out, but it literally was a technology problem in a lot of ways.”

This technological problem impacted students in the form of a lack of information.

“We should not have had to find out about this whole mess by reading it in the paper,” Chris van der Heijden, junior professional pilot major, said.

Another aviation student, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the flow of information was “very sparse,” and that there was too much information and not enough credibility behind it.  The majority of people involved had no clue what was going on, they said.

“I believe a lot of students weren’t actually exercising the patience that we were asking them to, to just understand that the delay was kind of out of our control because of this buyout,” Hoover said. She added that they were attempting to keep students informed to the best of their ability, “but unfortunately we weren’t able to get the information, the correct information, out to everyone in a timely manner as hoped.”

In an attempt to help with the flow of information, the aviation department held daily informational meetings at the Aviation Training Center the week before classes started, Hoover said.

“It was beneficial to see the teachers and advisors coming to the students and saying, ‘Hey, we hear you guys, but our hands are tied and we can’t do anything as of right now,’” Rubymae Ramlo, senior commercial pilot major, said.

However, the information that was announced at these meetings was not distributed to students afterward. A phone number was all that was given to students so they could speak to somebody in the aviation department and ask whatever questions they had.

“We should have received information in other ways than meetings in Ellensburg,” van der Heijden said, adding that most students weren’t able to attend and had to hunt down information by means of Facebook.

Others were more sympathetic toward the department, saying that the university and representatives provided students with as much information they legally could.


The department “had our best interests in mind at all times,” according to an aviation student who asked to remain anonymous.  The student also said that these meetings helped reassure students, in addition to bolstering morale and trying to keep students involved with the issue.

“A couple of those meetings, we had as many as 40 students there and that helped I think quite a bit,” Hoover said. “There was a lot of confusion that we just had to try to help students understand.”

She addressed the importance of releasing accurate information and said that the department was not going to send out information that wasn’t verifiable or based on rumors.

“And then when we went to send out the correct information, we couldn’t get it out there because of this whole university-wide change in our servers,” Hoover said.

In an effort to assist students with costs associated with the aviation program, the financial aid office halted the lab fee for flight labs. The flight labs are part of the course where students fly the planes.

The lab fee coincides with the rental price per hour of the plane. Because there were no flights being conducted, students would have essentially been paying the rental fee for planes they never got to fly.

Hoover said students were told to enroll in the flight labs so the credits they were enrolled in didn’t dip below full-time status of 12 credits. That way, students were still eligible to receive financial aid.

“If we’re up and flying anytime within the next week or so, it’s about the same amount of time delay that we had in 2012 with the [Taylor Bridge] fires and smoke,” Hoover said. “We’re perfectly able to get them caught up over the course of the year.” The fire scorched 36 square miles surrounding Ellensburg, filling the skies with smoke in August and September.



IFT currently has three planes sitting at Bowers Field, with more of the fleet on the way from Seattle and California. The contract requires half of the fleet to be manufactured in 2005 or later. Currently, the newest plane out of the three is from 2004.

“To help our students be competitive in the job market, they need to be training with at least some of the aircraft with the advanced technology,” Hoover said.

Recent graduate and IASCO flight instructor Jonathon Ly said it helps to not think of airplanes as cars in terms of model years. Ly also said that modernizing airplanes is “not really as hard as one might think.”

“We could also retro-fit some of the aircraft with some newer, more advanced technology,” Ly said. “You could have a plane built in the 70s but…it can do lots of certain things like planes built today.”

According to Hoover, as of Aug. 18, IASCO had 13 instructors “trained and ready to go.” The program is down to about five flight instructors, depending on need.

However, there are more instructors being trained in Redding, Calif., where IFT is based. Some of the flight instructors left Ellensburg to find work, unsure about the outcome of the contract, Hoover said. Ly said that others asked to be relocated to Redding, where they could continue with their flight instruction.

Students will see an increase in savings from IFT due to the effectiveness of the course training, Hoover said.

“It’s actually more efficient than the previous course. Every single flight hour is focused on something that’s essential for that training,” Hoover said.



Van der Heijden, a junior in the program, says he’s sympathetic. “Although it is easy to criticize the way it was handled, it is important to remember that the faculty in the aviation program are small in numbers,” Heijden said.

Some faculty members weren’t here in the summer, leaving as few as three members to deal with transmitting information to students and handling other matters. The department has five members on the Ellensburg campus, with one additional instructor lecturing in Moses Lake.

Chase Cottrill, junior professional pilot major, agreed. “The faculty are only concerned with the students’ success and I’m sure they are working hard to find options for our flight training,” he said.

Hoover added: “We are here for our students. That’s our bottom line. If our students have confusion, if they have frustration, we’re gonna try to help them as best we can.”

Several students have approached instructor Ly, asking what the status of their education is. Ly said that hurt him, as students “don’t really trust what CWU and IASCO have going.”

“We know that there’s been a delay and we know that this has caused a lot of major inconveniences with a lot of students,” Ly said.

“We want to offer the best quality instruction that we can have, always be there for the students…we want to treat them with respect, with the accommodations they need, anything they need, we want to help them,” Ly said. “We really just want to be there for the students.”