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Five questions with CAU’s Matt Johnston

California Aeronautical University is quickly growing

California Aeronautical University is a quickly growing aviation college based in Bakersfield and is an AOPA supporting sponsor. We sat down with CAU president and private pilot Matt Johnston for an update shortly after he announced the aviation college’s Dreams Take Flight Scholarship, an award valued at more than $150,000.

AOPA President Mark Baker and California Aeronautical University President Matt Johnston announce a scholarship initiative during the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Florida, April 11, 2018. Photo by David Tulis.

He said students “live, sleep, and breathe aviation” at the 22-acre campus.

What types of aircraft do students fly at CAU?

“We fly a fleet of 2015 or newer Cessna C172 G1000-equipped aircraft, and we have a total of 13 and that includes our Baron 55 twin trainer. We have a Super Decathlon [for aerobatic training] and students love getting out there and doing some loops and rolls.” They can also learn in complex airplanes including the Cessna 172RG.

What would you say is their favorite aircraft?

“They love the Decathlon. When they get their commercial and CFI training and start working on their spin training they can generally poke an instructor into doing a couple of loops and rolls and then they’re hooked” on aerobatic aircraft.

Which aircraft is your favorite?

“You know I have to say I’m right up there with that Super Decathlon. I love that thing. You might find me every once in a while, doing a roll—I might not end up in the right attitude—but I’m having a blast while I’m doing it.”

What does a school year look like at CAU?

“We start about 10 to 20 students every 10 weeks and we go year-round, so we have new students every quarter. We are seeing an increase in the number of freshmen, and we have 50 students signed up for fall of 2018. That’s about 25 students more than where we started in 2017, so that’s quite a growth” spurt for a relatively young school. “The first of our students are already graduating and going to the airlines. Most of our students at the commercial and CFI stages are already working for us and teaching other students who are entering the institution.” Others are “already in a pipeline or a cadet program with an airline.” CAU has eight airline partners, and the list is growing. “There are lots of opportunities for students.”

How do you use the rolling flight simulator?

“That bus is probably one of our most popular attractions for STEM-related exposures and aviation in general. We can take that bus to fairs and events, airshows, middle- and high-schools, and we can expose all kinds of people to the great opportunities that exist” in aviation. Through November, the mobile flight simulator has stops scheduled for Camarillo, Sacramento, San Diego, and Bakersfield, with plans to add more.

Prior to the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo, the aviation university was one of five college flight programs to receive a Garmin G1000-equipped Cessna 172 Top Hawk from Textron/Cessna.

Johnston said that by the end of 2018 the university would "probably have about 150 students in our Bachelor of Aeronautics degree program earning their flight certificates and ratings.”

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-winning AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft and photography.
Topics: Flight School, Training and Safety

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