WMU Board of Trustees approves investment in new fleet for College of Aviation

Contact: Erin Flynn
An airplane flies high in the air over Western's campus.

Western's College of Aviation is ready to level up its training capabilities with a new fleet of aircraft.

DETROIT—Western Michigan University's top-flight College of Aviation is getting new wings. On Thursday, March 23, the WMU Board of Trustees approved a multimillion-dollar investment from the WMU Foundation to support the purchase of a new fleet of aircraft, expanding the college's training capabilities at a time when demand for pilots is skyrocketing and replacing its aging fleet with the newest technology in the field.

"When we acquired our previous fleet of Cirrus aircraft, Western stood out for the type of training and skills students were able to develop because of the quality of the planes and the high level of technology we equipped them with," says Dr. Raymond Thompson, dean of Western's College of Aviation. "It was essential to moving us up to a top three aviation program in the country. This next fleet will take us to the next level."

The WMU Foundation loan, which has been approved up to $20 million, will support the purchase of up to 32 new primary training aircraft as well as a Super Decathlon training aircraft, which is used to develop specialized skills. The College of Aviation expects the actual cost of the new fleet to be much less, as it will use the sale of its current fleet of 28 planes to help defray the cost of the new aircraft.

"We're very appreciative of the WMU Foundation for helping to make this happen," Thompson says. "Being able to purchase the new aircraft rather than lease them allows us to start building equity right away and ultimately save money, which is a win for the University and for our students."

The board's approval of the loan allows the College of Aviation to move ahead with the purchasing process. Thompson expects the first round of new aircraft to arrive on campus in 2024.

"This investment means we will continue to attract the best and brightest students to apply to Western Michigan University's aviation program because we make these kinds of investments in equipment and educational experiences," Thompson says. "At the end of the day, it's hard to beat the look on the face of a student who's going to be the first one in one of these new airplanes. That's an exciting moment."

About Western's College of Aviation

 Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation, FLYING Magazine's No. 2 ranked aviation college, offers the only comprehensive aviation program at a public university in the state of Michigan. With nearly 1,200 undergraduate students, it is one of the largest aviation programs in the nation. Backed by more than 80 years of aviation experience, education and excellent industry reputation, WMU's College of Aviation is a powerful force in the future of aviation training. 

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