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Aviation college getting top-flight Cirrus aircraft

Sept. 30, 2005

KALAMAZOO--In a move Western Michigan University officials say will put its aviation education program head and shoulders above the competition, WMU's College of Aviation will retire its existing single-engine training fleet and replace it with 30 Cirrus SR20 and SR22 aircraft.

WMU and Minnesota-based Cirrus Design Corp. today announced a 10-year lease agreement that calls for the state-of-the-art aircraft to be replaced every two years, giving the University continued access to the latest advances in safety, avionics and performance. The first aircraft will arrive at the college's W.K. Kellogg Airport facility in Battle Creek, Mich., in October. Transition from the college's current use of Cessna 172s to the new aircraft will be completed by next summer.

"This is by far the best airplane for WMU's needs," says Capt. Rick Maloney, dean of the College of Aviation. "With these aircraft, we will meet or exceed the training standards of the commercial aviation industry, and we'll be able to provide the best possible learning outcomes for our students. They'll learn to fly in the most sophisticated aircraft used by any collegiate program in the nation."

Maloney points to the advanced avionics in the Cirrus SR20s and SR22s and a cockpit configuration that is similar to and shares technology with airliners used in the commercial aviation industry. That technology includes such features as Flight Director autopilot, Garmin GPS, advanced glass display screens and advanced electrical systems.

"The transfer of knowledge with this plane is absolutely astounding," Maloney says, pointing out that pilots trained on the Cirrus will be able to make a quick transition to the aircraft used by the commercial industry.

In addition to the aircraft, WMU will acquire two Level 6 flight training devices and will take on a role as Cirrus's premier training provider, offering training to others who purchase Cirrus aircraft.

"We're very excited to now be an integral part of one of the most forward-looking aviation schools in North America," says Cirrus President and CEO Alan Klapmeier. "It's very impressive that WMU's College of Aviation did such exhaustive research to arrive at the conclusion of selecting Cirrus aircraft, and we're pleased that WMU will now become a premier Cirrus flight training center."

Maloney says the college spent more than a year investigating the potential of making such a move. His three goals were to increase the safety level of the college's flight program, create a learning environment that would provide easy transfer of knowledge to the industry and secure an agreement that would not increase costs for the college's students.

"With this agreement between the college and Cirrus, we're meeting all three goals," Maloney says. "These are aircraft with important safety features, and because we'll be receiving new planes every two years, our students will always be working with the latest developments in aviation technology."

Maloney says the fact that new aircraft will always be in use for flight training means the college will cut its annual maintenance costs by as much as 60 percent. He also expects the higher fuel efficiency rating to result in a substantial decrease in fuel costs for the college and says those two factors alone will offset the majority of the college's cost of entering into the agreement.

The Cirrus SR20 and SR22 are low-wing, fixed-landing-gear aircraft that seat four and will be delivered to WMU with the following features:

Skywatch, a product of L-3 Communications Co. of Grand Rapids, Mich., which is an aircraft-based traffic and collision avoidance system that monitors the transponders from nearby aircraft, show their positions on a cockpit display and issues a visual and audible warning if a collision is imminent.

The Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, which is designed to lower the entire aircraft to the ground in an emergency when other landing alternatives have been exhausted.

An enhanced ground proximity warning system, known as TAWS, which incorporates the latest technology, including GPS, to give the pilot a clear picture of the terrain below and on the horizon anywhere in the world.

In addition, some of the planes coming to WMU will be equipped with a liquid de-icing system, and the college has set a goal of having that feature on all of its planes in the next two to three years.

"Skywatch, in particular, was a huge incentive for us," Maloney says. "I can't overemphasize how important we see safety features like these are in preparing our students for careers as aviation professionals."

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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