The Fight To Stay In Business

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WMU Consolidates Aviation Programs...

Western Michigan University (WMU) -- which has held contracts with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Emirates Airlines and European Pilot Selection and Training, and is one of the largest aviation colleges in the U.S. -- is giving up on its foreign pilot training program. At WMU, foreign enrollment has declined from a peak of 126 in 1999 to 26 this year. The University will instead offer an accelerated program for both international and domestic students. Robert Aardema, interim dean of the College of Aviation, said in a statement Monday, "...we've looked at our staffing levels and, with our domestic enrollment growing rapidly, we integrated our domestic and international faculty and staff. The new structure allows us to focus on our nearly 1,000 U.S. students, but still keep our international options open." WMU started its international training program in 1997 and the last of those contracts will expire this spring. Those airlines have chosen to suspend training until their need for new pilots returns, according to WMU's statement.

...As Foreign Enrollment Plummets

The new Certified Accelerated Pilot Training program, which will be open to both foreign and domestic students, follows a 13-month intensive training model. The program is FAA-certified and the FAA's European equivalent is expected to offer its approval as well, the university said. As the university continues to scrutinize its aviation programs and adapt to a changing aviation environment, one option under consideration, according to a report this week in the Kalamazoo Gazette, is privatization of the flight-training portion of the university's program. "It has the potential to be less costly to the student," interim Dean Aardema told the Gazette. "But the college dean has less control of the quality of instruction. We certainly don't want to compromise the quality of the program." The college intends to maintain enough staff to resurrect the foreign program when demand rebounds. "We have been carefully evaluating several options," WMU Interim President Daniel M. Litynski said in Monday's statement. "The results should be clear in the next few months." David Thomas, director of external relations for WMU's aviation college, told the Gazette, "If the war, for some reason, didn't take place, I think there'd be a leap in the economy and a leap in bookings immediately and suddenly the airlines will be looking for pilots. If it's a long war, you can make it as bad as you want."