Columbus has a significant aviation history. Its municipal airport has roots that date to February 1943, and it has ties to World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars from when it was an air base.

Next door to the airport is the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum, which displays and preserves the military history of the airport.

Today, the two-runway Columbus Municipal Airport serves the needs of local companies and individual pilots.

Considering the past and present, it makes sense to build on that legacy. That’s what Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus and Columbus Municipal Airport are doing with the creation of a flight-instruction program.

The collaborative efforts also include the airport’s fixed-base operator Jeff Air and its instructors.

The four-semester program is designed to help students earn a private pilot’s license and provide them with the instruction necessary to become a commercial airline pilot.

Students’ instruction will include:

  • 250 hours of flight instruction
  • Training on a flight simulator to experience different weather scenarios
  • Learning about aviation instrument qualifications

We recognize that a lot of work lies ahead in promoting the program.

For one, it’s expensive at $40,000 per student for flight instruction on top of tuition, which is about $8,000. So far, five students are enrolled in the program.

But it’s a good idea that we hope takes off, for several reasons.

A national shortage of pilots looms because more than 42 percent of active U.S. pilots plan to retire in the next 10 years.

Adding the flight program is a logical next step after Ivy Tech began offering an associate degree in aviation management about a year ago.

The flight program makes good use of local resources such as Columbus Municipal Airport, Jeff Air and Ivy Tech.

It should help Ivy Tech’s Columbus campus attract students regionally so they don’t have to go to further away for aviation degrees.

And it adds to the community’s aviation legacy.

All told, this presents a great opportunity for the Columbus community and students regionally who dream of aviation careers.

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