K-State at Salina offers professional pilot program
By Chloe Bos
The College of Technology and Aviation at Kansas State University at Salina offers the only professional pilot bachelor's degree awarded in the state that fully incorporates a flight training component for students.
Students also can earn an associate degree through K-State's professional pilot program.
The program was approved in 1986 at the Kansas Technical Institute, which is now known as K-State at Salina. In May 1987, seven students became the first graduates of the program, all earning associate of technology degrees.
The program took off in 1989 when contracts were signed for Civil Aviation Authority training with air service training in Perth, Scotland. Property was obtained from the Salina Airport Authority and a new training facility was constructed to support the contract. By 1991, the program had 60 aircraft and 31 faculty and staff. An avionics degree was added to the program in 1992 and a Federal Aviation Administration certified repair station was approved. In the same year, bachelor of science degrees in airway science were approved for the professional pilot program and aviation maintenance.
Contracts were signed in 1995 to support National Aeronautics and Space Administration atmosphere research. A Citation Jet was leased in 1991 and used to meet the transportation needs of K-State personnel for business trips and the athletic department for recruiting trips.
Pilots need to have a bachelor's degree in addition to the required professional credentials to qualify for a pilot interview with a major U.S. airline, said Marlon Johnston, aviation department head at K-State at Salina.
"The degree provides broad aviation knowledge valuable to pilots entering a corporate flight department, charter service or regional airline," Johnston said. "Graduates possessing the professional pilot degree from K-State are well equipped to support their company in making business decisions such as the purchase of aircraft and efficient utilization of the aircraft."
The professional pilot degree requires 124 course hours to graduate. This includes 64 hours in the aviation discipline, with 26 of those hours directly related to ground school and flight training. The remaining 60 hours provide the general education courses typical of all degree programs: communications, math, science, business, humanities and social sciences.
The required aviation courses cover topics in aviation history, meteorology, human physiology, team building, aerodynamics, advanced aircraft systems, safety management and air carrier operations. Students also are required to complete 11 hours in aviation electives, which can include aviation maintenance or an internship.
Students train in Cessna 172s, Beechcraft Sundowners, Beechcraft Bonanzas, Beechcraft Barons, a Beechcraft Air King and a Cessna CitationJet to accumulate flight hours. For additional training benefit, students use standard and full-graphics simulators.
The professional pilot program requires students to complete between 275-300 hours of flight time. Airlines have a general expectation of 1,000 hours, which includes100 hours to be completed in a multiengine aircraft, Johnston said.
Students also become flight instructors and can complete this course work during their junior year. Students may begin flight instructing once they complete an evaluation flight with the Federal Aviation Administration.
"Many students apply and compete to be hired by K-State's aviation department and the successful candidates then flight instruct for K-State," Johnston said. "The certificate is acknowledged anywhere in the U.S., so students can instruct for other flight programs or at a local airport. This is the primary path our graduates who want to go to the airlines take to build experience."
K-State students in the professional pilot program have been very successful in securing employment positions after college, Johnston said. Many students begin their careers as flight instructors. Students also have been able to secure positions with airlines such as American, American Eagle, America West, Continental Express, Southwest, United and Vanguard.
Graduates entering the airlines fly as first officers, the junior member of the pilot team, and as they progress within their company, they can advance and become a captain or senior pilot.
In addition to the airlines, many graduates pursue opportunities in corporate aviation by working for companies that owns their own aircraft.
"K-State professional pilot graduates are currently working in various aspects of the aviation industry, including the airlines, corporate aviation and military aviation around the world," Johnston said.
Image: Scott Nichols, pilot in the department of aviation at K-State at Salina, shows the new, technically advanced planes the department has acquired. These planes replace many of the dials and gauges with displays much like the screen on a laptop computer.