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October 25, 2011 9:11 am

EDITORIAL: Aeronautics degree a plus for Northwest College

Written by Ilene Olson

A new aeronautics of science degree, expected to be offered at Northwest College for the first time next year, is a good example of the college partnering with an area business to meet industry needs — and, in this case, the traveling public as well.

The program aims to train pilots to do more than just to fly airplanes. It puts them on a path to become commercial pilots who could help fill a growing shortage of commercial pilots.

The program will provide academic accreditation recognized by the Higher Learning Commission and by Choice Aviation. It will be the only program of its kind in the Basin, and in much of Wyoming as well. The college will provide the general education part of the degree; Choice Aviation will provide the flight and aeronautics training.

Because of the training and education provided, pilots who complete the program could qualify to become commercial pilots once they have completed 500 hours of flight time required under Federal Aeronautics Administration regulations. That is far less than the 1,500 hours of flight time required for pilots without that specialized training.

Pilots who graduate from the program will have 250 hours of flight experience. That means they will need to complete another 250 hours before qualifying to pilot commercial flights. That will be a much more feasible task than trying to acquire the 1,250 hours required for pilots who just complete training at a flight ground school.

Because it meets needs of students, industry and the public, the aeronautics program is expected to be a good draw for the college. And, because it will be an expensive program, the NWC Foundation is raising money for scholarships to help aeronautics students.

We applaud the organizers of the new program and those who forged the partnership for their vision and foresight. We also commend the foundation for its efforts to make the program affordable for students.

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