AOPA took part in celebrating 75 years of excellence in aviation education by sponsoring and attending an anniversary gala for Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation.
The Oct. 24 event, capping a year of celebratory activities for the school, was held at the College of Aviation’s campus at W. K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek.
"We are incredibly proud to be able to support the College of Aviation as its world-class programs surpass 75 years of excellence in aviation education," said Bryan Budds, AOPA’s Great Lakes regional manager, who was in attendance on behalf of the association. "We look forward to continuing this valued relationship as the college continues its great tradition for many years to come."
From 1939, when a two-year program for aviation mechanics was offered, the school has gone through many transformations that have produced, in 2014, an academic institution with accredited four-year programs ranging from flight science and maintenance technology to management and operations, and Air Force ROTC.
In 2014, the college added a master’s degree in business administration with an aviation concentration, in partnership with WMU’s Haworth College of Business.
A fleet of aircraft available to students on piloting career tracks includes a Cessna 150; a Piper PA-18 Super Cub on floats that was restored and built by program students; a Piper PA-28 Arrow; Cirrus SR20; and a twin-engine Piper 44 Seminole. Each aircraft "serves a unique role in training our world-class pilots from their first flight through emergency-maneuver training," says the College of Aviation on its home page.
Along with course work and flight training, the program’s more than 700 students have the opportunity to participate in aeronautical competition that help students perfect their skills, said Alex Myers, a WMU development and alumni relations official. The college’s Sky Broncos is a precision flight team that participates in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association competitions. Women pilots have an opportunity to represent the college in the Air Race Classic, and WMU’s chapter of SkillsUSA, an education-industry partnership to promote workforce skills development, participates in maintenance technology competitions—winning a national championship in 2013.
The college offers the only comprehensive public university aviation program in the state, said Myers.
An ongoing development effort consists of "building corporate partnerships within the aviation industry," he said.