By Staff Report

Eastern’s aviation program is moving back to Madison County after a six-year stint in Montgomery County. The decision to relocate means less time in the car and more time in the plane for aviation students.The Mount Sterling Airport is approximately 50 minutes from Richmond, or approximately 30 minutes farther away than the Madison County Airport.

The aviation program will also be getting an aircraft upgrade in the form of two new training aircrafts and a $250,000 flight simulator. The two “Diamond DA-20” aircraft are of the same type the Air Force uses for training, Aviation Program Coordinator Tony Adams said. The program will also be using a “Piper Arrow” plane, he said.

Nathan Hoskins, the general manager for Air 51 Flight Services at the Madison County Airport, flew one of the two new planes down from Canada on Friday.

Hoskins, who is also an Eastern alumnus, said the second plane should arrive this week.

Hoskins said the Montgomery Airport served essentially as a vendor to Eastern by supplying planes and instructors.

The university and Air 51 want to work together and form a partnership rather than just a vendor relationship, Hoskins said.

“It seems that the stars were aligned,” Adams said of the program relocating and receiving new aircraft at the same time. “It’s a benefit to Eastern as a whole,” he said.

Associate Professor of Aviation Jim Adamson said Eastern has yet to decide where the new flight simulator will be housed. The program is still deciding whether students will get the most use out of it on campus or at the airport, he said.

Troy Walton, an aerospace management major, started out in professional aeronautics and flew at the Mount Sterling Airport for more than a year.

After receiving his private pilot’s license, he decided to stop flying because the drive to the airport became a hassle.

“In order to graduate in four years I would have had to go to the airport about three times a week, which is crazy with the gas prices,” Walton said. “It took an hour to get there, so I was driving two hours to fly one hour.”

Along with easing gas costs for students, Adams said the return to Madison County will really enhance the aviation program.

Students in the flight option program can fly seven days a week, with flight hours ranging from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., he said.

“Our flight students like to hangout at the airport,” Adams said. “It’s a camaraderie thing.”

Eastern doesn’t own its own airport, which forces the aviation program to essentially lease out their professional flight option program to flight service contractors, Adams said.

The aviation program usually puts its flight option up for bid every five years.

When deciding on a contractor, program officials are concerned about the distance, price, and in general, what the flight facility has to offer, Adams said.

Officials look for which option is best suited for the program as a whole, as well as what will benefit the students, he added.

“The lowest bid may not always be the best [decision],” Adams said.

Montgomery County was chosen to be the flight service provider for Eastern’s Aviation Program in the summer of 2002 because no airports near Richmond provided any bids. Eastern chose Air 51’s bid this time around.

The aviation program has roughly 120 students. It offers Bachelor of Science degrees in both professional flight and aerospace management.

Adamson said Air 51 and Eastern will work together to choose flight instructors at the new location. Adamson said Eastern’s chief flight instructor, David Henemier, helps in making the decision about potential instructors.

“We are all excited to be moving back to Madison County,” said Adamson. “We are looking forward to this new phase in the history of our training. This is an exciting period for the program.”

Flight training will officially open for students at the new Madison County location on Oct. 1.

Progress writers Kaylia Cornett, Amanda Wheeler and Ben Kleppinger contributed to this story.