Commercial Drones PilotsWSU Tech to launch new pilot training program for students

July 8, 2021by helo-10

Students at the new flight school at WSU Tech will begin their pilot hours with the Cessna Skyhawk 172, leased to the technical college through the Top Hawk program by Textron Aviation.

Students at the new flight school at WSU Tech will begin their pilot hours with the Cessna Skyhawk 172, leased to the technical college through the Top Hawk program by Textron Aviation.

Courtesy photo

WSU Tech will soon offer a two-year program to help students prepare for a professional career as a pilot, the first collegiate airplane pilot offering in Wichita, the school announced Wednesday.

Starting next month at the National Center for Aviation Training at Colonel James Jabara Airport, the new pilot program will allow graduates to work in a variety of industries as a pilot. That includes work for commercial airlines, flight training, private or business aviation, cargo and government organizations.

The long-term need for pilots nationwide remains robust despite the current downturn in the aviation industry from COVID-19, according to Boeing’s Pilot and Technician Outlook for 2020 to 2039, which WSU Tech shared.

In the coming decades, nations across the globe will need 763,000 pilots, according to the report. The outlook projects that North America alone will need 208,000 pilots in that time.

“It is our mission to help meet our region’s workforce needs but until now we have been limited to the aviation needs that exist on the ground,” Sheree Utash, president of WSU Tech, said in a statement. “We are excited to take our education to new heights with the addition of the professional pilot program and to help combat the robust need for trained pilots in our nation.”

Students who complete the program will earn will earn an Associates of Applied Science in Professional Pilot from WSU Tech. They will be eligible for five different ratings from the Federal Aviation Administration: private, instrument, commercial, multi-engine and certified flight instructor.

The education isn’t all classroom work. Students must complete at least 235 flight hours. They can do so in WSU Tech’s new Cessna Skyhawk 172 — an aircraft leased to the technical college by Textron Aviation as part of its Top Hawk program.

The Top Hawk program, launched in 2015, is a collaboration among flight schools and universities across the country. Through the partnership, organizations like WSU Tech receive a new-from-the-factory Cessna Skyhawk for student pilot training. The schools can also promote pilot training with the aircraft at air shows, aviation contests and recruiting venues.

Since its inception, the Top Hawk program has placed 26 Cessna Skyhawks with participating schools and pilot centers. The collaboration has led to the training of more than 1,000 students to join the aviation workforce.

“Our students will gain a unique experience training in a brand new, WSU Tech custom branded Cessna Skyhawk,” James Hall, dean of aviation and manufacturing at WSU Tech, said in a statement. “This new addition to our fleet also reinforces the standard of providing state-of-the-art training facilities and equipment at the National Center for Aviation Training.”

The new pilot program in Wichita will be open to just 15 students each fall starting next month. Those interested in joining should apply today.

Last month, WSU Tech officials announced a new program for students to learn how to pilot and build drones. That program is also slated to begin in August and will take place at the National Center for Aviation Training campus.

“Training and developing the next generation of pilots is vitally important to our industry,” Ron Draper, president of Textron Aviation, said in a statement. “Welcoming WSU Tech into the Top Hawk program will expose future aviators to the latest technological advances in pilot training, and allows students to explore a wide range of aviation career possibilities right here in the Air Capital of the World.”

Learn more about the new pilot training program at WSU Tech online at

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Megan Stringer reports for The Wichita Eagle, where she focuses on issues facing the working class, labor and employment. She joined The Eagle in June 2020 as a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. Previously, Stringer covered business and economic development for the USA Today Network-Wisconsin, where her award-winning stories touched on everything from retail to manufacturing and health care.

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There is more to being a drone pilot than just buying a machine and flying in your backyard. It can be that simple, but most of us will need to understand some drone laws before we try to take to the sky.


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