(Meg Wilson)

By Jessica Nicholson

It’s been a year since Eastern’s aviation program relocated back to Madison County, and in the past year the program has seen significant changes and growth. The aviation program students now fly out of the Madison County airport instead of the Mount Sterling Airport, which was approximately 50 minutes from Richmond.

Associate professor of aviation Tony Adams said student flying has increased because of the close proximity of the Madison County airport.

“Student drive time to and from the Madison airport is shorter than the previous Montgomery County Airport. They have less drive time and more available time for flying and attending classes in a given day,” he said.

Two new training aircrafts and a $250, 000 flight simulator were added as upgrades to the program.

The two “Diamond DA-20” aircrafts students can now use are the same type the Air Force uses for training. The program has also added a Piper Arrow airplane.

The flight simulators replicate different types of airplanes and can be used to train pilots in the aviation program.

Simulators range from computer joysticks all the way to the newest simulator, which will be an actual model of an airplane cockpit.

It is projected to be completed in a few weeks. The simulators allow students to gain flight hours and get comfortable with flying before leaving the ground.

“The flight simulator is outstanding, you don’t have to go to the airport to get flight hours, you can just use the simulator,” Brian Chappell, a senior aerospace management major said.

The location isn’t the only thing that’s changed for the program in the past few years.

In 1991, Eastern was approved to offer the state’s first Bachelor of Science Degree Program in Aviation. The effort started ten years earlier when Joseph Schwendeman, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, chaired a study to determine the need for an Aviation Program. Wilma Walker, another professor, developed the program and in 1983, Eastern offered its first classes.

Currently, the program offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation with options in Aerospace Management and Professional Flight.Professional pilot students can earn Federal Aviation Administration certification as a private pilot, commercial pilot and a certified flight instructor. The Aerospace Management Option prepares students for professional careers in all aspects of the aerospace industry from a management perspective whereas the Professional Flight Option prepares students for professional careers as pilots.

The professional flight option is the only university aviation program in Kentucky and professional flight students receive their flight training under contract from Air 51, which is located at the Madison County Airport.

New equipment and convenience aren’t the only things the aviation program added to their list of accomplishments. On Oct. 17, the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame awarded their 2009 Aviation Achievement Award to Eastern.

Dr. Wilma Walker presented the award to President Whitlock, who accepted the award on behalf of the aviation program.

The award ceremony was held at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky located at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, and the program honored guests from Eastern and the Madison Airport Board.

Wesley Wernernelson, freshman, and instructor Eric Thoben check the airplane before take-off on a one hour flight. (Meg Wilson)