Why do students choose to attend Western Michigan University?
Many students choose Western Michigan University because it offers much more than an aviation program. Students have the option to double major in languages, business, or even art! We also are able to be part of a large university and attend Division 1 athletic events, for example, while still keeping that small college feel on days spent out at the airport. Being the smallest college at WMU, many of our students say it has a family environment. Our Dean, Captain Dave Powell, is also the only ex-airline chief pilot leading a collegiate program. He uses that experience to ensure our graduates have the necessary training and experience needed to stand out to employers, and so that each graduate is as prepared for their career. Additionally, he works to ensure our fees and costs stay as low as possible, keeping our program affordable. Our flight students train in the most technologically advanced aircraft available in collegiate aviation, the Cirrus SR-20. Our management and operations students, while gaining aviation experience, also have access to one of the best business colleges in the country, the Haworth College of Business. Our maintenance programfocuses on preparing students to become licensed Airframe and Powerplant mechanics through hands-on experience and training. WMU Tech Ops graduates generally move on to careers in general aviation, commercial airlines, and corporate aviation. We have a number of industry partnerships, such as Delta Propel, United Aviate, and the AAR Eagle Pathway Program, that provide streamlined career paths for students, in addition to recognizing the value the industry places on our graduates. Lastly, we are situated in a rather convenient spot, as we are only 2 hours away from either Chicago or Detroit, and 1 hour from Lake Michigan.
As there are two campuses, how would I spend my time between main campus and the aviation campus?
Classes will be split between WMU’s main campus in Kalamazoo and the aviation campus in Battle Creek. Related courses and essential studies will be held on main campus, in addition to some introductory level aviation classes. As students advance through the program, more classes will be held at the aviation campus. All flight training will be held at the Battle Creek Executive airport. For tech ops students, all labs (which make up the majority of the classes) are held at the aviation campus. Additional required classes, such as chemistry, physics, and essential studies courses are held on the main campus. For management and operations students, there will also be a number of classes held in WMU’s Haworth College of Business, in addition to classes at the aviation campus and essential studies on main campus. WMU’s residence halls are located in Kalamazoo on the main campus.
Is there transportation to and from the airport?
Yes, bus transportation is offered through Indian Trails almost every hour starting at 7 a.m. All buses have Wi-Fi and power outlets. It is around a 40-minute drive. You can find the aviation bus schedule here.
How much does your program cost?
- You can find our current tuition rates here.
- If you would like to live in a residence hall with a meal plan, you can find the room and board costs here.
- For technical operations students only, you can find the applicable tech ops course fees here.
- For flight science students, you can find the additional flight training fees here. Please note that flight fees are an estimated cost; we only charge students for what they use and as students are all different, it will not be exact. On the bottom of the flight fees page, it notes “flight fees are based on a minimum cost +10%”. Per FAR Part 141 standards, our students must meet minimum standards and flight times. However, these are the minimums, and dependent on the student, one might need additional flights or lessons in order to be fully prepared to take the check ride. The +10% is there to cover any additional expenses. The amount for each course is due at the beginning of each semester with tuition and is held in your account until it is spent. If it is not needed, it could roll over in a student’s flight account or go back to you. Students have a direct impact on the total cost of their flight training. The listed flight fees also include the costs of a headset, charts, written exams, check rides, etc that are necessary throughout your flight training.
Are there scholarships available?
Yes! The College of Aviation posts internal scholarships for the upcoming academic year in December. WMU also has scholarships that are available to the entire student body. Lastly, we keep an updated scholarships blog on our website that includes scholarships from external partners and aviation organizations that our students are eligible to apply for.
Is there a separate application for the College of Aviation?
No, once you are accepted into WMU you are accepted into the College of Aviation. However, there is an application that is required to begin flight training for flight science majors only. The application can be found by clicking here.
How many students are in the program?
There are approximately 1,150 students in the College of Aviation: 800 Flight Science, 250 Management & Operations, and 100 Technical Operations students.
Where do students live?
Student housing is available on main campus in Kalamazoo. The College of Aviation offers an aviation learning community in Henry Hall. It is not required to live in Henry Hall, or even on main campus; however, we highly recommend that you do. There are also general first-year student dorms available if you would prefer a more traditional college experience surrounded by students of all majors. A complete list of our residence halls can be found here.
*Note: For the 2020-2021 academic year, the aviation learning community has been moved been to Ackley Hall in order to better accommodate social distance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is the average class size?
This depends greatly on the classes a student takes. Essential studies and related classes usually range from 60-200 students. Students in aviation (AVS) classes can expect class sizes no larger than 60 students and usually around 30 students.
What is the success rate of your graduates?
In 2018-2019, 100% of our tech ops and flight science graduates placed into a job, the military, or further education within three months of graduation. 94% of our management and operations and flight science graduates placed into a job, the military, or further education within three months of graduation. Overall, 98% of aviation graduates were actively engaged after graduation, with a median salary of $40,000-$45,000. Source, pg. 62
Is the College of Aviation accredited?
Yes, we are accredited through Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI). Additionally, The FAA certifies and MDOT licenses WMU facilities for pilot training. You can find more information about our accreditation here.
Does WMU have relationships with industry partners and airlines?
Yes. We have relationships with all of the major airlines and their regional airlines, in addition to many corporate and cargo companies. Our industry partners visit our campus frequently, whether it being flying in one of their planes or holding an informational meeting. Something that we are quite proud of is our membership in Delta Propel and United Aviate. In short, it is an expedited career path for accepted WMU students to the respective mainline carrier.
What would my course load look like as a student?
- For flight science students, the full curriculum is available here.
- For maintenance students, the full curriculum is available here.
- For technical operations students, the full curriculum is available here.
Full time at WMU is considered 12-15 credit hours. We strongly recommend that students meet with our aviation academic advisors each semester to determine the best courses to take each semester and ensure successful progression through the degree.
What computer do you recommend? Will I need an iPad as a flight student?
Minimum specifications are designed for typical academic tasks such as email, word processing, creating presentations, taking notes, accessing and participating in Elearning, and web conferencing. You can find specific computer recommendations here.
Beginning in the instrument portion of flight training, students are allowed to use an iPad or tablet for charts, documents, flight planning, etc. An iPad or tablet is highly recommended but not required. It should be an iPad with cellular capability. You do not need to subscribe to a service, but the cellular capability allows for the use of a GPS (if you already have an iPad without cellular capability, you can purchase an external add-on for GPS). In addition to the link above, you can find further recommendations specific to iPads here.
Do you participate in the Midwest Student Exchange Program?
We are no longer part of the Midwest Student Exchange Program as WMU recently restructured our tuition for a much lower non-resident rate that was more competitive than the MSEP program.
If I am an out of state student, can I become a Michigan resident after my first year and qualify for in-state tuition?
After the recent restructuring of tuition which drastically lowered the non-resident rate, out-of-state students are no longer able to become in-state students. The new tuition model is less expensive than paying the original out-of-state rate for one year and the in-state rate for the remaining three years.
Are there extracurricular organizations for students?
Yes! WMU, as a whole, has over 400 student organizations, including 11 aviation specific organizations: Air Force ROTC, ALPA ACE Club, Alpha Eta Rho, American Association of Airport Executives, Association for Women in Maintenance, Aviation Student Council, National Gay Pilots Association, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, SkillsUSA, Sky Broncos (our precision flight team), and Women in Aviation.
Where have WMU students interned?
Our students have interned with a variety of aviation companies, ranging from airlines, such as United and Southwest, to corporate companies, like Wal-Mart and Amway, even interning with cargo companies like UPS. For our maintenance students, our own College of Aviation hires maintenance students as fleet maintenance interns each semester. In addition, local corporate aviation companies such as Duncan Aviation and Stryker Corporation offer internships to our students. Furthermore, there are many opportunities for external training on corporate jets through affiliate programs such as NBAA and WMBAA.
We keep an updated blog of each year’s opportunities on our Jobs and Scholarships page.
When do flight science students begin flight training?
WMU, like many other aviation colleges across the nation, is experiencing a flight instructor shortage as a result of the recent hiring spree by the airlines. It is still possible that a student may fly their first year, however we can no longer make the guarantee. Our dean has written a letter detailing the issue and we recommend prospective families read it. We still encourage all students who wish to fly submit a flight application every semester. Ultimately, we would rather under promise and over deliver; we will continue to do everything we can to ensure students fly as soon as possible.
Can students fly over the summer?
Yes. We strongly recommend that students stay during at least one of our summer semesters to take advantage of Michigan’s best weather and continually progress the student’s flight training. WMU also offers academic courses throughout the summer semesters. Summer I is roughly May-June, while Summer II is roughly July-August.
How long is the program?
Aviation Flight Science and Aviation Management and Operations are four-year programs while Aviation Maintenance Technology can be completed in three and a half years. All three of our programs are Bachelors of Science. If students choose to continue training and taking courses throughout the summer, they may be able to graduate a semester or two early. Ultimately, this depends on the student and their desire to learn.
How long does it take to complete flight training?
This depends on the student and their desire to learn. The average is 2.5-3 years to obtain the private pilot license, instrument rating, and commercial multi-engine license with single engine add-on rating. However, depending on flight availability, weather, and students, this timeframe can vary.
Should I obtain my private pilots license before coming to WMU?
In regard to obtaining a private pilot's license before attending WMU, the answer to that question is very mixed. For some students, the experience is productive; for others, it hasn't helped put them in a better position.
The first question in regard to obtaining a private - will it help accelerate my acceptance into a flight slot? The answer is: it may help, but only a very little. To dissect this, it is important to understand how we prioritize flight slots. The criteria for a flight slot is based on two things: 1. WMU GPA (if we had spots for new students, we would use their HS GPA. Currently, it is a moot point), and 2. the number of credit hours successfully completed. The only exception to this, if a student has their private pilots license (but it must be complete and in hand at the time the student submits their flight application), they do receive five bonus points. While this isn't huge, if we have two students that are equal, the five points may help the person with the private.
The next question - will this speed up my progress through the WMU flight program? The answer to this is: maybe. It is best to understand that WMU trains students to become professional pilots. As a result, our flight curriculum and labs are incredibly rigorous. We also train following the Federal Aviation Administration's part 141 regulations, which hold the pilot and the training entity to higher standards. Most students who obtain their private pilot's license at a local flight school train using the part 61 regulations, which are not as strict, and do their ground school online or self-study. As a result, some students come to us with marginal knowledge and skills. When a student comes to us with their PPL, the first flight class they do will be our private pilot transition course. The purpose of this course consists of three objectives:
- Complete a skill evaluation, making sure the student is operating at the part 141 level
- Orientate the student to the process and procedures that we operate under at WMU. Our operations perform very similarly to those at a large airport. In addition, we operate at a controlled airport, which can be very new to some students.
- To familiarize and learn the operations of our Cirrus SR20, which are equipped with a very complex avionics platform, the Avidyne R9
When doing the transition course, the syllabus is a minimum of 10 to 11 lessons, approximately four to six weeks long, and a minimum of about $5,300. Depending on the skill set and proficiency of the student, and the knowledge they have acquired in obtaining their PPL, some students hit the minimums, while others take six to eight months, and spend three times more.
The other challenge we are encountering when students come in with their private, they still may not fly during their first year. For some, that is troubling. For others, they are okay with it. Our recommendation, if they obtain it prior to attending WMU, make sure they keep themselves current. We do have a number of airports in close proximity where a student can rent aircraft. This is something they will want to do regularly to keep their currency. Additionally, students always have the option to backseat in existing training flights at WMU. All the student needs to do is get the okay from the student doing the lesson.
One thing to add, recently, we seem to be seeing more transition course students struggle than we have previously. We believe this is due to the fact that the number of training providers doing proficient work may be diminishing due to lack of staff, resulting in marginal training quality becoming the norm far more than it has been in the past.
Our suggestion is to evaluate and investigate the local flight schools you may be considering. We suggest anybody seeking training in the part 61 environment shop carefully and ask lots of questions about success rates, instructor turnover, ground schools and total experience on the course for others who have completed it. As an aside and while this is definitely an outlier (we have only seen it once), we actually have had a student who arrived with private pilot certificate in hand, did very poorly in the transition course and repeated the entirety of their private pilot training here. We suspect there may be extenuating circumstances associated with that situation, but it has happened and is certainly far from an ideal outcome.
How do you determine which students are awarded flight slots?
The criteria for a flight slot is based on two things:
- WMU GPA (if we had spots for new students, we would use their HS GPA. Currently, it is a moot point), and
- The number of credit hours successfully completed.
The higher the GPA and the higher the number of credit hours completed, the higher the chance of being accepted to flight. For this reason, we strongly encourage students to aim for 4.0 GPA; while the minimum requirement is only a 3.0, anything above this would help in moving higher up the list. The only exception to this, if a student has their private pilots license (but it must be complete and in hand at the time the student submits their flight application), they do receive five bonus points. While this isn't huge, if we have two students that are equal, the five points may help the person with the private pilots license.
Does winter weather affect your flight training?
Weather will always affect every flight-training program wherever you are. WMU’s location allows for our students to become more experienced in every season. This includes all forms of winter operations, which will make them more comfortable in less favorable conditions. The aviation industry will operate in every type of weather condition, just like our students. Safety is our main priority, so yes; you may have to cancel flights due to adverse weather, however our flight program operates year-round. Throughout the winter, instructors utilize our simulators and necessary ground training to ensure that students’ training still progresses if it is not safe to fly.
Do I have to be an aviation student to fly or get my private pilots license?
You must be enrolled in our aviation flight science degree and be awarded a flight slot in order to fly our aircraft. Others are welcome to sit in the backseat during flight, with the approval of the student and flight instructor*. Our flight course to obtain the sea plane rating is open to the general aviation community.
*Backseat riders are currently not allowed to help minimize the impact of COVID-19.
Can students rent the planes?
Students are not allowed to rent the planes. In order to fly, you must have a flight instructor with you or be on a designated solo flight. However, there are a number of local flight schools that offer aircraft rentals, assuming they get checked out beforehand. Our Certified Flight Instructors do have rental privileges, if resources are available.
How many planes are in your fleet?
There are over 40 planes in our fleet, consisting mainly of Cirrus SR-20s.
- 28 Cirrus SR-20s
- 1 Cirrus SR-22s
- 10 Piper Seminoles
- 1 American Champion Super Decathlon
- 1 Piper Super Cub on Floats
- 2 Cessna 150s
The Cirrus is our primary training aircraft and is used in the private and instrument courses, while the Seminole is used for the Commercial multi-engine course. There are three required flights during the commercial portion of your training in the Super Decathlon. Our Sky Bronco Precision Flight Team uses the Cessna 150s for competition and practice.
What aircraft do Tech Ops students use?
Our Tech Ops students have their own fleet of aircraft, including:
- Boeing 727
- Beechcraft Baron
- Beechcraft King Air
- Cessna 172
- Cessna 182
What simulators do you have?
We have 3 Cirrus SR-20 and 1 CRJ-200 flight training devices (FTD). Each simulator is a Level 5, wraparound screen, and full cockpit simulator, and they are primarily used for training in adverse conditions before a student experiences them in the air. We have one Redbird FMX simulator to simulate multi-engine flying in the Piper Seminole.
What are the requirements to be eligible for flight training?
We do have additional requirements to fly here at WMU, including a minimum GPA and a medical certificate. You can find them here.
What class medical do I need?
To flight train at WMU, all flight science students need at least a second class medical, however it is highly recommended that all students try to obtain a first class. In order to fly professionally, most airlines and flight departments will require a first class medical. As such, we find it best for students to ensure they can obtain the Class 1 before investing significant funds in flight training. Ultimately, we will accept a Class 2 medical. You can find more information about the medical requirement here.
Do I receive credit hours for flight training? How is this impacted if I get my private outside of WMU?
You will get credit hours for flight training. The Private Pilot License is 2 credit hours, Instrument rating is 3 credit hours, and Commercial Multi with Single Add-on is 4 credit hours. You will not receive any credit hours for getting your private outside of WMU. You will be exempt from our Private Pilot course, but you will still need to make up the 5 credit hours (2 credit hours for flight lab and 3 credit hours for the ground school class). You will also be required to take our Private Pilot Transition Course which is 1 credit hour (leaving you with an additional 4 credit hours to make up with electives). We have been recommending that students still take our Private Pilot Ground School, though it is not required.
On the topic of maintenance, what is an A&P?
A&P stands for Airframe and Powerplant. An “A&P” is a colloquial term for an aircraft mechanic as well as the license that certifies mechanics to work on airplanes Aviation Maintenance students at WMU take courses which prepare them for their A&P exam, or Airframe and Powerplant Exam. Upon completion of the maintenance program at WMU, students leave with a Bachelor of Science degree and their A&P certificate.
Do I have to get my own tools for the technical operations program? What tools are required?
Yes, you will have to get the majority of your own tools. Basic hand tools are required for the maintenance program; there is no need to purchase any power tools or specialty tools, as they will be provided in lab. Maintenance students should be prepared to bring ratchets with socket sets, a wrench set, screwdriver set, diagonal side cutters, needle nose pliers, inspection mirror, and flashlight. Ratchets should be quarter inch and 3/8-inch drive with sockets, deep well sockets, and extensions. All tools will be standard. NO METRIC. Flat head and Philips head screwdrivers will be commonly used.
No rolling toolboxes are allowed in class but students are encouraged to bring and store handheld tool boxes in lab. An easy and economical way to find all the tools necessary for lab is to purchase a flashlight and inspection mirror along with a mechanics tool set from a local hardware or home improvement store. Such sets will include most, if not all of the wrenches, sockets, and screwdrivers students will need for class, as well as a box to hold them! Furthermore, there are multiple tool discounts for students at Western Michigan University, including MAPCO and Snap-On. Remember, tools are an investment that students will use throughout their careers!
Is your Technical Operations program Part 147?
Yes. Upon completing the program, students qualify to take the examinations for the FAA mechanics license with airframe and powerplant ratings, which are considered to be the industry standard of aviation technical knowledge. The examinations consist of written, oral, and practical exams by a designated FAA examiner.
Do you offer an ROTC program?
Yes. The Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps—ROTC—program, offered in collaboration with Michigan State University, is an educational program designed to give men and women the opportunity to become an Air Force officer while earning a degree. After successfully completing the program, students will be commissioned as a second lieutenant and begin serving as an officer in leadership roles of increasing responsibility and importance in the "active duty" Air Force. This consists of General Military course academics, a leadership laboratory, field training, professional officer course academics, and professional development. The General Military Course—GMC—portion of the program is usually taken during a students freshman and sophomore years. This program allows students to "try out" Air Force ROTC for up to two years without incurring any obligation (unless a student has accepted an Air Force ROTC scholarship). While attending class, students will learn about the Air Force and the historical development of air power. More information can be found online.
Do you have an air traffic control program?
We no longer offer a program specific to air traffic control. WMU used to be one of 15 AT-CTI schools, but in 2012, the FAA changed their hiring process to require only 1) a four year bachelors degree or 2) three years work experience or 3) a combination of the two. There is no aviation requirement to be hired. We thought it was unfair to offer the program to our students when there is no guaranteed job after graduation. If you are interested in becoming an air traffic controller, we recommend the aviation management and operations program, which qualifies you to apply for air traffic control, but also offers additional career opportunities.
Do you have an Aerospace Engineering program?
WMU does offer an Aerospace Engineering degree, however not with the College of Aviation. The aerospace engineering degree is offered through the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Aerospace engineers design, develop, test, and help produce commercial and military aircraft, spacecraft, surface effect vehicles, missiles, and other related hardware and systems. They also design and develop hydrofoil ships, deep diving vessels for oceanographic research, and high-speed rail-type machines.
Do you offer drone certificate programs?
The University offers two UAV-related graduate certificates. The Certificate Program in UAVs Applications in Geological and Environmental Sciences gives students a comprehensive understanding of the available geophysical and remote sensing sensors mounted on UAVs, and training on their applications in addressing geological and environmental problems. It consists of four classes. The Certificate Program in Geospatial Applications of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles emphasizes obtaining and analyzing airborne imagery to yield accurate 2D maps of the Earth's surface land cover and vegetation health, and 3D surface models. It consists of three classes.
The graduate certificates are offered by the departments of Aviation Sciences, Geological and Environmental Sciences, and Geography in partnership with the Extended University Programs office. Both of WMU's UAV-related certificate programs require nine-credit hours of classes and feature a combination of online, face-to-face and hybrid--online and face-to-face--instruction. They are open to anyone with a bachelor's degree. Students may enroll in either program at any point in the year.
Are there any opportunities to obtain a masters degree?
Western Michigan University has a number of graduate programs available to students, however not in the College of Aviation. A complete list of WMU's graduate offerings can be found here.