CWU News

CWU Trustees Approve Plan to Meet Growing Demand for Aviation Education

The Central Washington University Board of Trustees has approved a plan that allows the university to purchase or lease aircraft over the next few years in order to accommodate the growing demand for aviation education and flight training. 

As global economies expand and airlines take delivery of tens of thousands of new commercial jetliners over the next 20 years, there is an extraordinary demand for people to fly and maintain these airplanes (Boeing, 2016). CWU will admit more than 60 new students to the program this fall. From 2014 to 2016 enrollment in Central’s BS Aviation-Professional Pilot program increased from 45 to 162 students.

“This plan will give us much greater flexibility and control over educational content and the quality and reliability of flight training,” noted Paul Ballard, dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, which oversees CWU’s aviation program. “A combination of purchases and leases will allow us to provide students the kind of aircraft they need, when they need them.”

The contract with the current flight training vendor, IASCO Flight Training (IFT) ends in June 2018. IFT, which has provided flight training services for the past three years, will complete instruction with any students now enrolled in a flight lab. CWU faculty and staff will provide flight training to new students this fall and assume all responsibilities for flight training when the IFT contract ends.

Ballard said the shift to university-run flight training will support more meticulous adherence to aviation accreditation requirements, including preserving the program’s rigorous safety management system. The Aviation Accreditation Board International is now considering program accreditation.

Ballard said the university’s move to independent flight training will help support the long-standing education partnership with Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake. Big Bend students can earn a two-year aviation degree in Moses Lake and then transfer to CWU to complete a baccalaureate degree.

In November 2016, Ellensburg-based Midstate Aviation sold CWU a flight training office facility and a maintenance hangar located on airport property. Additionally, Midstate Aviation sub-leased the main hanger, which is owned by Kittitas County, to CWU. CWU is currently in discussions with Kittitas County and Midstate Aviation to assume certain aviation services and shared responsibilities as the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at Bowers Field. The FBO provides airport users a broad range of aviation services, from fuel to food and lounge services.

“Our goal is not just to grow our aviation program, but also to serve as a great resource for the entire region,” Ballard said, noting that the CWU aviation program accounts for more than 80 percent of take-offs and landings at the airport. “We also want to be a robust presence at Bower Field, providing top services to local and visiting aviators.”

CWU’s program, founded more than 40 years ago, is the most experienced baccalaureate aviation degree program in the Northwest. The program is the only place on the West Coast that offers training on the CRJ-2000 turbo-jet trainer, airline-style curriculum, and an advanced turbo-prop trainer. The program enjoys direct-hire agreements with Horizon Airlines, Mesa Airlines, and PSA Airlines.

Students can choose one of two specializations:
• Commercial Pilot Specialization, which allows students to obtain private pilot certification, instrument rating, and commercial pilot certificate and multi-engine rating
• Flight Officer Specialization, which allows students to add the Certified Flight Instructor.

Central Washington University’s Aviation program is also approved to authorize graduates a Restricted Airline Transport Pilot (R-ATP) certificate. The certificate allows pilots with 1,000 hours of flight time to serve as a co-pilot until he or she obtains the 1,500 hours required for a standard ATP certificate.


Media contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,