New Facility Propels Western’s College of Aviation Into the Future

The aviation industry is ready for takeoff after a pandemic pause, and a new, innovative facility puts Western Michigan University at the head of the pack to meet the growing demand.

“This is a pretty momentous occasion and opportunity for Western Michigan University,” says Tom Thinnes, recruitment and outreach manager for the College of Aviation. “It really resonates for the quality of the program, and this new building truly elevates us to the stature of how the industry already recognizes us.”

“If you talk to some of our graduates who are now flying for the airlines, they’re gushing about how great this is,” adds Capt. Dave Powell, dean of the College of Aviation. “Everything here is state of the art. We’re delivering the most sophisticated flight training of any program in America.”

The $20 million Aviation Education Center (AEC), which has been in the works for more than a decade, dramatically expands educational opportunities for the College of Aviation and doubles the number of students it can accommodate. The growth couldn’t come at a more crucial time as major airlines stare down massive shortages in both pilots and mechanics.

“The need for this program is tremendous,” says Powell. “We’re more than just a flight program; we have a tech ops program training mechanics and another one for management operations. Those are the three primaries that most airlines have, and to be able to satisfy their needs here in Southwest Michigan, to me, is pretty special.”

A grand opening celebration and dedication is planned for Friday, Sept. 17, at the new Aviation Education Center. Industry partners, key stakeholders, government representatives and WMU community members will all be invited to attend. Anyone interested can RSVP online.

“Having had the opportunity to see the building go from blueprint to construction, I’m amped for the dedication. Sleek and unique, the state-of-the-art facility delivers the learning environment required for students today and in the future,” says Greg Dellinger, director of outreach and communications at AAR CORP., an international company that provides career resources and opportunities to Western aviation maintenance students through its EAGLE Career Pathway Program.

There are plenty of upgrades that come along with the new facility to help students better prepare for the industry, including exponential increases in the number of learning spaces. Students now have access to 11 classrooms, six advanced flight simulators, larger gathering areas for such events as career fairs and networking opportunities and—Powell’s favorite feature—25 pilot briefing rooms, up from just six at the previous facility.

Source: Excerpt from Western Michigan University Press Release. See Full Press Release here.

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