Five Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus students are the first to learn how to fly in the college’s new flight-instruction program.

Partnering with Columbus Municipal Airport, Ivy Tech launched the aviation program at an airport news conference last week.

Columbus is the only Ivy Tech campus in Indiana to have a flight-school program, offered with the help of the airport’s fixed-base operator, Jeff Air, and its instructors.

Story continues below gallery

Three Indiana universities also have aviation programs where students can learn to be a pilot or pursue aviation-related careers. They are Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana State University in Terre Haute and Vincennes University, where students can receive degrees in aircraft maintenance and technology.

Grayson Montgomery of North Vernon, who is working toward earning an associate’s degree in professional flight at Ivy Tech, said having the program in Columbus will help him pursue his dreams of becoming a commercial pilot.

Montgomery said he became interested in aviation at a young age after his uncle flew in the U.S. Air Force. Montgomery said he had never flown before starting Ivy Tech’s aviation program.

The program offered in Columbus is designed to give students hands-on pilot training, said Matthew Medley, program chair of Ivy Tech — Columbus’ aviation technology program.

The opportunity for the local Ivy Tech campus to offer flight training didn’t happen without a lot of collaboration, something that Columbus is known for, Ivy Tech Community College Chancellor Steven Combs said.

“Through this partnership and our college, students can get real and simulated flight experience that trains them how to manage aircraft instruments, account for weather conditions and fly an airplane commercially,” he said.

The professional flight program costs $40,000 per student for flight instruction, which does not include tuition, Medley said. Tuition costs about $8,000 for the 60-credit-hour program.

Students perform 250 hours of flight instruction in the program, broken down over four semesters, Medley said.

Students will earn a private pilot’s license in the program, learn about aviation instrument qualifications and multi-engine aircraft ratings, culminating with instruction to become a commercial airline pilot.

The new program is an addition to Ivy Tech’s first aviation-related associate’s degree offering, an aviation-management program that has had students for about a year, Medley said. That program is a four-semester degree program.

Students enrolled in aviation management learn how to manage an airfield, leading to careers managing a small airport or an office of a fixed-base operator, Medley said. Those kind of duties range from supervising day-to-day operations to doing periodic runway light inspections as part of the ongoing maintenance requirements for smaller airports.

The pair of associate’s degree programs have a combined enrollment of 13 students, but Medley said he anticipates that number going up.

“I’m hopeful by fall 2018 we will see 25 students,” Medley said.

The professional flight program will also provide a pathway to transfer to an aviation management bachelor’s degree program at a state university. The school also offers a certificate in aviation operations that can be completed over two semesters, while a technical certificate in aviation technology flight can also be obtained in three semesters.

Those technical certificates are stepping stones to allow someone to earn a commercial aviation certificate, Medley said.

Jeff Air has two flight instructors working with students in Ivy Tech’s flight training program.

David Jeffries, co-owner of Jeff Air Pilot Services, said the fixed-base operator trains about 40 to 50 pilots a year in addition to the Ivy Tech students, and has trained about 200 to 300 pilots since the company formed in Greenwood six years ago.

Adding the additional students from Ivy Tech could help meet the looming shortage of pilots nationally, Jeffries said. More than 42 percent of active U.S. pilots are planning to retire during the next 10 years, contributing to a shortage, Jeffries said.

“This is an opportunity for Jeff Air to offer what we do best, and that’s train pilots,” Jeffries said.

Each Ivy Tech student will have about 40 to 50 hours of flying time with the Jeff Air instructors to meet the 40-hour minimum requirement to earn a private pilot’s license, Jeffries said.

In addition to flight time, students will also train on a flight simulator at the Columbus Municipal Airport. Emergency procedures are taught on the simulator, and students are tested on flying in different types of weather scenarios that the simulator can produce.

“We use that flight simulator for just about every stage of flight training,” Medley said.

The simulator was purchased through the Indiana Space Grant Consortium and with donations from the Columbus Municipal Airport and Jeff Air, Medley said.

How to enroll

Students interested in enrolling in flight training at Ivy Tech Community College – Columbus can:

Aviation schools in Indiana

Three universities in Indiana offer flight training or aviation technology or maintenance programs.

Purdue University: polytechnic.purdue.edu/degrees/professional-flight

Vincennes University: my.vinu.edu/web/atc

Indiana State University: technology.indstate.edu/avt/

Author photo
Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com