International Aero Academy and Central Christian College teamed up with Tecnam U.S. to establish a new, four-year aviation degree program based in Lakeland, Florida, that aims to slash the cost of an aviation education and replenish the career pilot pipeline.
“We come from the airline world and when we looked at the flight school environment we felt there was room to innovate,” International Aero Academy President Steve Markhoff said during a news briefing on April 10 at the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo. The academy offers dormitory housing and a 12,000-square-foot maintenance facility, and has room to expand.
Markhoff said the new program is expected to cut the cost to students in half compared to aviation-specific colleges in the Part 141 training environment. He pledged that students would be on the flight line making money as instructors “within eight months” of beginning the program.
Because of its affiliation with Kansas-based Central Christian, students also would be eligible for federal student loans while pursuing the four-year and two-year bachelor and associate degrees. Markhoff predicted participants would quickly make their education investment back as instructors. He estimated the net cost of a four-year degree “including all the ratings will be sub-$75,000.”
Markhoff flew professionally for Hawaiian Airlines and said speeding up the path to the cockpit helps regional carriers because it ensures a robust aircraft fleet and helps maintain schedules to travelers in outlying areas.
Tecnam Director of Sales Shannon Yeager said in a press release that he was “thrilled” the high-wing, two-place aircraft would be an integral part of the new program. With a composite airframe, efficient Rotax 912 100-horsepower engine, and new cockpit technology, Yeager said the P2008 can easily handle 100 hours of use per month. He added that the aircraft will sip about 4 gallons of fuel per hour in the pattern.
“Tecnam is very behind this initiative. We believe, truly, that these aircraft will hold up” in the demanding training environment, Yeager said. “Which would you rather have, an older 10,000-hour Cessna or a brand new aircraft?”