News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 22, 2013

ISU Flight Academy takes off

Open House shows off new ISU facility to Wabash Valley

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Indiana State University Flight Academy is ready for take off.

The Flight Academy, located at the Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field opened its doors to the public at an open-house event Saturday.

More than 200 parents, students, university officials, airport officials and members of the community were greeted at the new facility with the sign, “Welcome to the ISU Flight Academy.”

Chief pilot Kevin Donnar said that the open house is an opportunity to welcome and show the public the new facility.

The new facility is a two-story building that consists of a hanger (where planes are kept), conference rooms, briefing rooms, flight planning rooms and break rooms, among others. On the second floor, there are classrooms, an instruction lounge and an observation lounge overlooking the ramp.

“What a great addition to the airport,” said airport executive director Bill McKown.

He calls the ISU-airport relationship “a lasting partnership, for sure.”

The summer renovation and upgrade of the former FedEx building in the airport property, which also included the hanger and parking lot, cost $640,000, McKown said.

ISU furnished the building and bought a new fleet of aircraft. The entire fleet cost under $2 million, said Harry Minniear, Aviation Technology Department chairman.

There are 12 aircraft, several of which are Diamond DA40s that ISU purchased from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a release said.

The flight academy opened Tuesday.

“We’re excited about our opening here and the opportunities for ... student success,” Minniear said.

“I’m very excited about the future” and the opportunities to grow the program, he added.

ISU offers bachelor’s degrees in aviation professional and aviation management. Students take classes at the ISU campus and also spend time at the flight academy for hands-on learning.

“My goal is to provide adequate training to increase students’ eligibility for employment,” Donnar said.

And students are learning with state-of-the-art technology.

“Some of the aircraft in the fleet have upgraded avionics, close to what commercial aircraft use,” he added.

And this is important for student success, said Robert English, interim dean of the College of Technology.

The flight academy gives students access to planes that have current technology installed, “which makes it easier for them to be successful when they graduate,” English said.

In addition to airplanes, there was also food at the event.

Attendees sat down at tables inside the hanger. Aircraft were parked on the ramp outside for people to look at and explore.

One of the attendees was Tina Bowles from Indianapolis. Her son, Wyatt, attends ISU.

“It’s our first time to come and see this. It’s nice that they brought the parents out to see this,” she said.

“I’m so impressed with what they’re doing here,” Bowles said, adding that her son is “getting a really good flight education.”

“The instructors and the school are doing a fabulous job,” Bowles said.

Her son agrees.

“I love the facility,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt said that the one-on-one time with the flight instructor is valuable to him.

“The hands-on experience is priceless, especially in this field. Without the experience, you can’t do it right,” the 19-year-old pro flight and aviation technology student said.

“I’m looking forward to watching him grow in the next four years,” Bowles said of her son.

The event was also attended by Boy Scout troops from across the Wabash Valley. The troops were camping on airport grounds this weekend as part of their fall camporee focused on the aviation merit badge.

“This has really sparked the interest of young people here,” McKown said.

The Boy Scouts were exposed to the “excitement of aviation,” McKown said. And many are looking forward to the possibilities.

“It’s big for ISU, and it’s big for the community as well,” Minniear said of the academy.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@trib