January 8, 1998
KALAMAZOO -- Irish air carrier Aer Lingus has become the second major international customer to contract with Western Michigan University for new pilot training.
The Dublin-based airline has signed a one-year contract to bring 24 students to the WMU School of Aviation Sciences' International Pilot Training Centre, which is located at Battle Creek's W.K. Kellogg Airport. The contract is expected to exceed $1 million. The first group of Aer Lingus students will arrive in Battle Creek Jan. 14 for training that will begin on Jan. 16.
The announcement follows by less than a month an announcement that London-based British Airways has signed a two-year, $6 million contract that will bring up to 48 students per year to the school for training. Although British Airways was the first to sign a contract, the first group of those students will not arrive until March.
According to Joseph H. Dunlap, director of the School of Aviation Sciences, WMU bid on the Aer Lingus contract in October. Since negotiations focused on a January start-up date for the Aer Lingus personnel, Dunlap says, the documentation necessary to bring students to this country was handled while contract details were being ironed out.
The 16 initial students will be followed by a class of eight students in March. Aer Lingus also has an option to start additional class groups in September and November. Each group of students will stay for a year of intensive, European-style training.
In July, WMU's School of Aviation Sciences became the only collegiate aviation program in the United States to be certified for flight training by the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority, which is the European equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration. In recent years, the school also has moved to revamp its curriculum, increased the size and variety of its training aircraft fleet and acquired state-of-art simulators and other training equipment. The school now uses the European "ab initio" method of flight training, which is designed to train students with no previous flight experience.
The school's four-year degree program moved last fall from Kalamazoo to new, larger facilities in Battle Creek and announced the launch of its international training effort. The first class of self-sponsored European students began training in the program in October and, on Dec. 12, the University and British Airways announced that airlines' contract with the school.
The Aer Lingus contract marks the first time that airline has contracted with an American university for pilot training, although Aer Lingus has previously used commercial aviation firms in the United States.
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