Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Facts on EKU Aviation

Recently a KSN&C commenter took on EKU's new aviation program suggesting that it was a bad idea and that we'd all be better off if we took those wasted dollars and bought more periodical subscriptions...or something like that. Why should a program of less than 100 flight students exist in the small backwater town of Richmond? What possible benefit does aviation provide such Kentucky towns?

Given the "facts" suggested by the writer, I began to wonder. Why indeed?

So I asked the folks on the fashionable north side of campus if they could provide KSN&C with a response to these allegations. Turns out, Professor Tim Ross, the Chair of Applied Engineering and Technology/Aviation, could do just that. He was reluctant at first, but ultimately decided that misinformation about the new program needed to be corrected. Good for him.

Ross told KSN&C, "EKU has over a dozen planes at the Madison County airport for their aviation program, freshly painted with EKU logo no less."

But it would seem our commenter was mistaken about...almost all of the rest of it.

Eastern Kentucky University does not own any aircraft; they are leased on a year-to-year basis,Ross said.
As per our contract requirements, the aircraft we receive are painted in EKU colors at NO additional cost to the program. Currently, we lease eight aircraft: a Cessna 150, five - Cessna 172’s, a Cessna 172RG and a Piper Seneca III. As the program continues to grow, we will acquire additional aircraft as needed to satisfy the demand. Based on recruitment activities and current trends, it is likely we will need 12 aircraft by July 2012.
So how can the EKU Aviation program be self-sustaining with barely 100 students?
The cost of the flight program is paid for by student flight fees. The Professional Flight program is a cost above and beyond tuition, residence hall, meal plans, etc. Students pay a flight fee for each rating, plus an additional fee for insurance.
So, how did EKU get money for a fleet of planes when the governor is selling the two planes the state owns? Ross, who just may know what he's talking about, corrects the record saying,
The State actually owned seven aircraft. The five that are still owned by the State are: a PA-31_350 Navajo Chieftain, Cessna 182, Cessna 172E, Bell 206L Long Ranger and a Bell 206 Jet Ranger. The Governor did sell two aircraft that were not being used. These aircraft had flown very few hours over the past couple of years and he made a wise decision to sell the aircraft while they still had value. The two aircraft sold by the State were a 1975 Piper Navajo and a single-engine 1967 Cessna Skyhawk.
Our commenter wondered, "how many scholarships, online periodical subscriptions, professional development opportunities this university could have afforded its community instead of paying for airplanes that spend most of their time sitting unused in some hanger at a rural airport which offers almost no navigation, communication, diverse traffic, environmental variance or other high level aviation interaction or experience?

Apparently the answer is none.
The Aviation Professional Flight program has no effect on the number of scholarships, professional development opportunities or online periodical subscriptions. The program is paid for by student flight fees that are in ADDITION to tuition and other university costs and/or fees. As for the aircraft sitting in hangars, most EKU aircraft are tied-down on the ramp to allow local and transient aircraft to utilize the hangar facilities and to reduce the cost to students. The current fleet of aircraft fly approximately 4000 hours per year.

The Madison Airport serves as a crucial component to many local businesses by allowing out of town corporate personnel to visit their Madison County locations. Further, the airport serves as a gateway to future businesses allowing companies to visit and assess the local area. By virtue of this service to various local employers the Madison Airport supports and aids hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs in the Madison County area.

The airport provides pilots with two advanced GPS approaches and is home to 40 Aircraft including a corporate jet. Requests have been made to hangar additional corporate jets, but at this time, the facility is at full capacity. It maintains a monthly average of 30 transient aircraft operations as well as infinite local aviation operations.
To learn more about the Madison Airport facilities and level of technology, Ross suggests visiting the Madison Airport website, AirNav, or Flight Plan.

The commenter, obviously an EKU colleague of mine says, it "Makes you wonder why we are suppose to worry about turning off electronics during winter break when God only knows how much we are paying for airplane maintenance annuals, increased insurance and fuel.”

Well, happily, God is not the only one who knows. Ross did some digging and learned that,
Leaving a computer on overnight consumes approximately .20 cents of electricity per computer. With the number of computers on campus, turning them off over break saves thousands of dollars, not to mention the lights, copiers and other devices all over the EKU campus. In terms of the maintenance, insurance and fuel cost, it is all covered by the student flight fees.
Feeling a bit spunky, perhaps, Ross added that the commenter, "forgot to mention the Flight Instructor’s salary - which is also covered by the flight fees."

Visit the EKU Aviation program webpage to better understand the program operation and flight fees.

Thanks to the commenter for raising the issues, and to Tim Ross for his detailed response.


Anonymous said...

THanks for the info, glad I don't have to pay those student fees though.

Anonymous said...

School replaced the only competent Chief Instructor with a retired military guy who, after nearly 3/4 of a year, had yet to qualify for the federal position. But, the guy before wasn't a yes man. He brought the entire program up from nothing, with no money, and no mention was ever made of his name. The current guy inherited the work the earlier guy had done. But, because EKU wouldn't listen, he left.