Smile Politely

Parkland Aviation aims for the skies

If your week isn’t taking off yet, consider attending Parkland College’s Aviation Open House this Thursday from 2–4 p.m. at Willard Airport.

The event will feature a 30-minute sightseeing flight over Champaign-Urbana, tours of aviation facilities, and information on how to pursue an associate’s degree in aviation or one of several pilot certifications through Parkland’s new Aviation School.

Starting in fall 2014 and following the closure of the University of Illinois’s Institute of Aviation, Parkland will offer aviation courses and an aviation-related Associate of Science degree. Students desiring careers as commercial pilots may choose to pursue a four-year aviation degree by transferring Parkland credits to UI or other four-year schools, and Parkland’s new curriculum is also ideal for students interested in taking the smaller set of courses for private pilot licensing.

Back in 2013, University of Illinois’s Board of Trustees voted to close the Institute for Aviation — a decision that will save the university hundreds of thousands of dollars annually — and to hand the future of aviation in C-U over the Parkland. An intergovernmental agreement ensured that Parkland would benefit from Illinois’s loss: thousands of dollars went to Parkland for the purpose of marketing the new program, Illinois’s aircraft and aviation facilities were leased to Parkland for pennies, and $3 million will be given to Parkland over the course of the program’s transition. The shift in aviation leadership will benefit students as well. Current Illinois aviation students can finish their degrees by continuing their pilot training at Parkland, and Parkland hopes to recruit a new generation of aviators through events like this Thursday’s open house.

We recently talked with Parkland’s Dr. Kristine Young, Parkland’s Vice President for Academic Services, and Chief Pilot Sybil Phillips about the new program.

Smile Politely: What inspired Parkland to create a new Aviation School, and what was the process like to get the program up and running?

Dr. Kristine Young: The University of Illinois reached out to Parkland several years ago and asked us to consider taking over the function of the Institute of Aviation. When we examined the opportunity, we realized how similar the goals of the Institute were to our own. Parkland has a long and successful track record of both providing high level technical/hands-on education and successfully transferring students to universities. Knowing we had the experience to design and deliver this sort of program, and anticipating the impending pilot shortage, we embraced the opportunity to continue flight training in Champaign-Urbana.

The process of welcoming the program to Parkland has been exciting both in content and in forming relationships. While existing Parkland staff had never worked in the aviation field, we reached out to colleagues at the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and North Dakota State University to better understand how flight schools can be successfully embedded within an institution of higher education. Community entities such as Riverside Research and Frasca International have given invaluable advice and support as well. The University of Illinois graciously shared their nationally respected curriculum and Parkland is hiring many of the current staff and faculty of the Institute to continue their work under the Parkland flag. Current Chief Pilot Sybil Phillips will continue in that role for Parkland.

SP: Parkland will begin aviation programming in fall 2014. What has the response been like so far from potential students and community members? Have there been many applicants to the program so far?

Sybil Phillips: We have had great response from prospective students and community members alike. There is great enthusiasm for continuing aviation flight training in the Champaign-Urbana area.  We have several applicants so far and look forward to even more in the future.

SP: What are the components of the aviation Associate of Science program?

Phillips: The associate’s degree program consists of flight courses leading to a commercial pilot certificate with instrument and multiengine ratings as well as the general education requirements in life science, mathematics, physical science, humanities/fine arts, and social/behavioral science (the Illinois Articulation Initiative General Education Core Curriculum).  The Associate of Science degree is designed to transfer to a four-year college or university so the student can complete a bachelor’s degree.

SP: What kinds of jobs does this program prepare its students for?

Phillips: A flight instructor course is available, however it is not specifically required by the associate’s degree program. We hope that our students will become flight instructors. The first job that many pilots have is as a flight instructor. In that job, the pilot builds flight time and experience to prepare him or her to work as a commercial passenger or cargo pilot working for an airline, a corporate flight department, a cargo operator, or charter operator.

SP: How is the training for the aviation Associate of Science different from the pilot certifications Parkland offers? And what will the certifications prepare students to do?

Phillips: The flight training is no different whether a student is in the Associate of Science program or just seeking a pilot certification. All students will receive the same high quality of training.

A private pilot certificate prepares a student to fly on his own, carry passengers, and fly at night, and in good weather, what we call visual flight rules or VFR.  A private pilot can share expenses with his passengers.

An instrument pilot can fly in weather less than VFR, or what we call instrument flight rules (IFR). This pilot can fly in the clouds or in restricted visibility.

A commercial pilot can be paid to fly. This certificate is required for pilots who fly for compensation or hire. A flight instructor is required to hold a commercial pilot certificate.

SP: What kind of activities will be available at the upcoming Aviation Open House?

Phillips: There will be representatives from Parkland College to talk about admissions requirements, program requirements, and financial aid. Institute of Aviation representatives will conduct tours of the facilities and offer “fun flights” to those who attend and wish to fly. This is a 30-minute sightseeing flight over Champaign-Urbana and the Parkland College campus.

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