The demand for pilots in the aviation industry is rising fast with no end in sight, and it’s a trend that officials at Clover Park Technical College’s (CPTC) South Hill campus want to take advantage of.
The college’s new twin-engine Tecnam P2006T airplane will help make that happen.
The unveiling of the new airplane brought both student and professional pilots to the campus’ maintenance hangar on Thursday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. As the college’s most recent acquisition, the plane allows for Clover Park to provide twin-engine training courses that are required for students who hope to one day work for a commercial airline.
“The (aviation) industry is in a huge hiring boom,” said Lucas Holm, assistant chief flight instructor. “Fewer and fewer pilots are (coming) from the military field. Most pilots now are coming from the civilian field.”
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For students at Clover Park, the plane is a treat. One of about 300 in the world and the only one of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, the plane was built in Italy and assembled in Florida. Its price tag came in at around $650,000.
The (aviation) industry is in a huge hiring boom. Fewer and fewer pilots are going from the military field. Most pilots now are coming from the civilian field.
Lucas Holm, assistant chief flight instructor
The P2006T features the latest glass cockpit technology, comprised of two navigation screens, which guarantees students a high-quality flight experience.
“This is a tool that was missing for a long time,” said Bruce Lachney, advisory chair for the CPTC Aviation Programs Advisory Committee. “We needed this tool. This is a wonderful opportunity for everybody in this program.”
CPTC previously owned a twin-engine airplane about 15 years ago, but high operational costs eventually led program officials to decide to sell it. But the move didn’t mean giving up on eventually bringing a twin-engine program back to campus.
“We could have bought something a lot older, but there’s (such) a maintenance demand (that comes with older aircraft),” said Holm, who flew the new airplane from Florida to Washington.
In the end, purchasing a new plane yielded bigger benefits for the college’s students. CPTC is offering four new courses involving the twin-engine airplane.
So far, no students have been out flying yet, said CPTC Professional Pilot instructor Bill Coyner, but he added that many students wanted a multi-engine airplane in the fleet. The college uses the Thun Field runway next door to the campus.
We have a responsibility to meet the needs for industry in new ways. The acquisition of a double-engine plane takes training at Clover Park to a new level. It will allow CPTC to be a leader in aviation technology for years to come.
Joyce Loveday, interim president
“We start training students in January,” Coyner said.
Students often go on to be flight instructors, then jump to work for regional and commercial airlines. Gaining multi-engine experience is crucial for students who want to move on to handle commercial flights.
“You can’t get a job — a really good job — without multi-engine (experience),” Lachney said.
And filling those requested pilot positions are important, says Tawny Dotson, the vice president for strategic development at CPTC.
“Our job is to provide an employable workforce for Pierce County,” Dotson said.
“We have a responsibility to meet the needs for the industry in new ways,” added Joyce Loveday, the college’s interim president, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “The acquisition of a double-engine plane takes training at Clover Park to a new level. It will allow CPTC to be a leader in aviation technology for years to come.”