University seeks new flight-training provider

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Central Washington University has issued a request for proposal (RFP) for flight training for the university’s aviation program.

The RFP increases performance standards for flight training to meet rising standards of the aviation industry, including a new FAA “1,500-rule,” which requires more flight hours, and a higher level of flight certification for first officers who want to fly for domestic passenger or cargo airlines.

“We’re moving quickly to make sure we’re providing the preparation our graduates need for employment,” said Connie Lambert, dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies. “We’re also hoping to make the program more affordable for students.”

Prospective flight trainers must guarantee that flight instructors have a bachelor’s degree, hold an appropriate FAA certification, and will use CWU’s curriculum. CWU faculty will continue to provide the program’s classroom instruction.

Lambert said the RFP cites a preference for the flight training to occur at Ellensburg’s Bowers Field because the location is most convenient for students and because of the critical role the program plays in sustaining the FAA classification for the airport, two miles north of the university.

At present, CWU’s 95 students fly nearly 6,800 hours annually, accounting for about 80% of the takeoffs and landings at the airfield.

“Bowers Field is an important economic asset to Kittitas County in general and Ellensburg in particular,” said Lambert. “We will continue to provide excellent flight training for our students, and I hope it can be at Bowers Field.”

All CWU academic programs, including aviation, are accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Many professional programs also hold additional accreditation from industry-specific groups. Lambert said that the aviation program is now seeking program-specific accreditation from the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI).

“Accreditation has become a high priority for employers, so it’s a high priority for us, too,” Lambert said. She added that, through the two-year, peer-reviewed accreditation process, AABI approves curriculum and program outcomes—what program graduates should know and be able to do.

While CWU searches for a new contractor, the aviation program is taking several other steps to enhance education and training, including the development of a comprehensive, industry-standard safety plan.

“Employers are placing a tremendous premium on graduates who value and understand the importance of a comprehensive and consistent approach to safety,” said Hoover. “We want graduates to know that everyone has a role in promoting safety.

CWU offers a fully accredited Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation, and provides a CRJ-200 turbo-jet and technically advanced turboprop flight training.  Program graduates can take advantage of direct-hire agreements with Alaska Airlines and American Eagle.

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