During its January meeting, the Klamath Community College Board of Education approved development of a new academic program at the college. The new program, which will offer certificates in Aviation Science for prospective helicopter and fixed wing pilots, will be developed in partnership with Precision Aviation Training, a Newberg, Oregon-based, Federal Aviation Administration-approved aviation training academy with more than 30 years of experience training commercial pilots.
"We are very excited about this program and partnership," said KCC President Dr. Roberto Gutierrez. "Commercial helicopter and fixed wing pilots are in high demand not only in Oregon, but around the world. These are high-paying jobs that require a high level of technical training and expertise. We are very fortunate to have a partner like Precision." The program, which will likely begin as a one-year certificate but could eventually become a full two-year associate degree program, could potentially draw students from all over the world.
"This will be one of the few fully accredited programs in the world, and certainly the only one in North America, that will offer training on the latest generation aircraft, called the Guimbal Cabri," according to Precision’s managing director, David Rath. "This is the first piston-powered training helicopter designed and certified to the latest design standard. This state-of-the-art helicopter has made an impressive impact in Europe, along with Asia. It is the most advanced training helicopter in the world."
The uniqueness of the program is expected to attract students from all over the world. "We have existing relationships globally, where we already draw many students from, and we think this program and partnership with KCC will be even more appealing to our international students," Rath said.
Though the program must still be approved by the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, the KCC Board’s action provides the framework for program development to go forward.
In addition to the cost of tuition, which is the same rate for all academic programs at KCC, course fees for Aviation Science will make the certificate more expensive than others at KCC. "The cost of obtaining this certificate may be prohibitive for some students," Dr. Gutierrez said of the approximately $75,000 program, "but we are working with the VA and sourcing a third-party lender that will be able to work with students to provide loans that will make up the difference between financial aid and the course fees." For qualifying students, VA benefits can cover a large portion of the program cost.
"The upfront cost is substantial," Rath said. "But there is great earning potential for commercial pilots. We’ve been doing this a long time and know that students who make this commitment will be able to recoup that cost in future earnings."
Once state approval is secured, KCC and Precision expect to begin offering aviation training by the start of summer term. According to Dr. Gutierrez, KCC plans to develop a related program in aircraft maintenance technology (AMT) in the future as well. "We plan to build a comprehensive aviation program at KCC that will attract students from all over the world," he said. "That starts with helicopter and fixed wing aviation and will hopefully grow to include AMT as well."
A program showcase has been tentatively scheduled for the KCC Expo/Career Day, on April 29 10:00 a.m. on campus at KCC. The showcase will include multiple helicopters, which Precision is flying in for the event, as well as an aviation simulator, which the public will have an opportunity to experience during the event.
Once state approval is secured, KCC and Precision expect to begin offering aviation training by the start of summer term 2014.