CWU News

CWU Aviation Program Ramps Up Recruitment Efforts for Fall 2021

CWU Aviation planes

One of the top-flight aviation schools on the West Coast is recruiting students for the 2021 fall quarter.

After a period of restructuring, the Central Washington University Aviation program is planning for the future. Now, department chair Peter Dittmer and his colleagues are looking forward to welcoming more prospective pilots to CWU, which offers the only four-year aviation degrees in the Pacific Northwest.

“Last June, there was a decision to pause the program, and we had to react to that,” Dittmer said, adding that CWU Aviation reduced its first-year enrollment to only 15 for the current academic year. “But now we are moving forward.”

The program received the green light last summer to seek enrollments for 2021-22 in both degree tracks: Professional Pilot and Aviation Management. Fall registrations are now being accepted on the CWU Aviation website, and the deadline is March 15.

Currently serving 180 students, CWU Aviation operates out of Bowers Field, about two miles north of the Ellensburg campus. The Federal Aviation Administration Part 141 program­ — the only accredited four-year institute in the Northwest — offers the restricted Airline Transport Pilot (R-ATP) certificate, plus state-of-the-art aircraft, simulation equipment, and a maintenance crew.

With four full-time faculty members and a half-dozen adjunct professors, CWU’s program —established in 1975 — is structured to provide students with ample one-on-one instruction.

“We get to know the students personally, and they get the kind of attention from their flight instructors that they couldn’t get in a larger program,” said Director of Flight Operations Dan Petree, who joined the department last fall. “We have a very dedicated group of instructors and faculty whose only mission is to make sure our students are successful.”  

Petree added that one of the program’s goals is to train enough new pilots to support the industry’s long-term needs. With hundreds of pilots aging out of the profession every year, CWU Aviation is doing its part to develop the next generation of commercial pilots.

“There’s no question that the long-term prospects for a career in aviation are great,” he said.

As its graduates can attest, the program boasts a nearly 90% job placement rate in the industry. 

“Because of our restricted ATP designation, our students go to the front of the line when applying for airline jobs,” Dittmer said. “We really have a dynamic, outstanding program.” 

Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs,, 509-963-1518.