News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 23, 2012

FLASHPOINT: ISU’s reasoning flawed in flight school planning


---- — ISU and the taxpayers of Indiana and Vigo County are being led down a path of deception once again. The numbers and facts presented by ISU’s Provost Jack Maynard and aviation department chairman Harry Minniear — in order to create its own flight academy — are outright lies and will ultimately cost ISU aviation students and local taxpayers a considerable and unnecessary amount of money.

Brown Flying School currently rents its instructional aircraft to ISU students for $116 per hour. Rental costs resulting from the plan proposed by the board will result in fees upwards of $250 per hour. This $130 increase will either have to come from the student’s pockets — which will likely lead to a collapse of the aviation program due to affordability — or university subsidies.

Brown Flying School is currently able to maintain affordable prices because its aircraft are both paid off and self-insured. This savings is passed on to ISU and its students through the absence of a mark-up in fuel prices, hangar fees and maintenance costs. ISU and its students will lose all of these luxuries upon the creation of a flight academy at Hulman Airfield.

Maynard and Minniear claim that ISU aviation needs to be taken to the “next level” in order to “keep up with the competition.” They believe that this will only be achieved by offering the students new aircraft to fly. However, the differences between the pre-owned aircraft to be bought by the university and the aircraft already owned by Brown Flying School are negligible. Moreover, Brown Flying School offered to upgrade its fleet’s instrumentation with no additional costs to the students or the university in exchange for a two-year contract extension, which the university denied.

ISU’s plan proposes that the new flight academy will ultimately pay for itself through student fees. This is unrealistic. The purchase of 11 new aircraft will leave only $100,000 from the $2 million loan for the additional overhead costs of outsourcing aircraft maintenance, insurance, refueling, classroom space and hangar costs. While the university states that no significant cost increase to students is anticipated, the money must come from somewhere. If the $130 per hour increase in instructional cost isn’t passed on to the students, then it must be subsidized by the university.

The needs of ISU’s aviation school are already being met and surpassed by Brown Flying School. Maynard even points out that the organization has “served us well,” and “has done a marvelous job.” As a pilot familiar with both organizations and a father with two children attending ISU, I don’t feel it is necessary for student pilot fees, general tuition fees or taxpayer dollars to cover the costs of administrative incompetency.

— John Ross

West Terre Haute