News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

December 12, 2012

School ready to take off

Indiana State seeks permission to run own flight academy

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University wants to operate its own Flight Academy for aviation students at Terre Haute International Airport, and on Friday, it will seek Board of Trustees approval to move forward.

ISU is seeking approval to negotiate and execute a contract with the airport, and the two parties have been in discussion.

The university would purchase six to eight airplanes, and it would lease classroom, office and hangar space from the airport, said ISU Provost Jack Maynard.

The airport would make necessary facility renovations, although those details and a lease agreement are still being negotiated, said Diann McKee, ISU vice president for business affairs. The maximum term of the lease would be four years with an option to renew.

“This is a work in progress,” she said.

Startup costs for the program are estimated at about $2 million, which includes purchase of airplanes, hiring of adjunct flight instructors and other costs, Maynard said. The goal is a fall 2013 start date.

ISU would provide a general fund loan to start the program, McKee said, but the goal would be for the program to pay for itself through student fees when those students use the Flight Academy, she said.

For several years, ISU has had discussions about whether it should operate its own flight academy, Maynard said. ISU is one of the few colleges that offers a professional pilot program but does not have its own flight academy, he said.

Currently, aviation students train at Sky King Airport through Brown’s Flying School, which has an agreement with ISU. In the past, ISU also had an agreement with Terre Haute International Airport, which operated a flight school for many years but opted to discontinue it last year.

The ISU aviation students pay the flight schools for flight instruction, and for many years, that arrangement “served us well,” Maynard said. Brown’s Flying School “has done a marvelous job.”

But after about a year of study, “We came to the conclusion that to be competitive with our professional pilot program, we need to do this” and start an ISU Flight Academy, Maynard said.

One of the factors considered, he said, was that ISU students need more modern planes to fly, he said. “Our students need every edge they can get,” he said, noting that the program is an expensive one because students pay extra for their flight hours.

Once ISU and the airport enter a lease agreement, ISU would begin securing six to eight airplanes, he said. Maintenance of the planes would be subcontracted.

The airplanes would be used by students only, Maynard said. They would not be used for private flying “of anyone,” such as ISU administrators, he said.

ISU would hire an experienced pilot to manage the flight school, he said. ISU also would hire a number of pilots on a contractual basis who would provide flight instruction.

Airport officials “have been very supportive and want to enter into a partnership,” Maynard said.

ISU officials will present information about the proposal during a board of trustees seminar Friday before the regular board meeting, which is at 3:15 p.m.

ISU has been “pretty conservative” in estimating program costs, Maynard said. “It won’t put a financial burden on the university,” he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

 

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