ANCHORAGE The Avia-tion Technology Division at the University of Alaska Anchorage has a new $2.5 million simulator and is leasing two new training airplanes, worth $134,000 each.
Located at Merrill Field, the Aviation Technology Division trains pilots and air traffic controllers and offers programs in aviation maintenance technology and aviation management.
Ron Haney, director of the UAA Aviation Technology Division, said the acquisitions will help keep Alaskans in state, as well as train them for the rigors of Alaska flying.
UAA competes with about 200 colleges and universities in the Lower 48 that offer some type of aviation-related curriculum.
"We're keeping a lot of students in state that may have gone out of state for an aviation education," Haney said.
"They're also building Alaska experience flying in Alaska. That's very important to the operators that will eventually hire them."
The Cessna 208 simulator, purchased with an appropriation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will become FAA certified this summer. Made by Frasca, the simulator has a six-axis motion base and a 140-degree forward view.
"Basically this device can do almost all the things that the real airplane can do," Haney said.
Marcus Holmquist, research associate for the aviation division, said the simulator "means we can do high-level airport research. For example, we can build an airport in the simulator before they spend millions building the real thing."
In March, the school acquired two new Diamond DA-20 C1 planes for its professional piloting program.
The low-wing, two-seaters have a 125-horsepower engine and are responsive and stable aircraft.
They are leased from Midtown Leasing LLC.
"They are state-of-the-art, very efficient aircraft," Haney said. "We needed some additional trainers due to the growth of the program."
The two fiberglass Diamonds give the school a fleet of five total trainers. The UAA also has Cessna 172s.
Beefing up the fleet has allowed UAA to reduce its leasing rate to students from $106 an hour to $95 an hour.
The aviation division has about 350 total students. It started a four-year degree program three years ago.
"Over the past three years we've probably doubled in credit hour production," Haney said.
The school's air traffic control program offers students one of only three 360-degree tower simulators in the world.
Salary range for air traffic controllers can range from $45,000 to $130,000, Holmquist said.
In Alaska, the highest paid flight controllers can earn up to $140,000.
"Can you imagine getting a two-year degree and making that kind of money?" Holmquist asked.
Currently, classes are full for the school's air traffic control program for this fall, but students can still get started in an aviation curriculum.
In related news, the university and the FAA have developed a new training regimen that allows applicants to bypass the FAA Academy for training to take entry-level jobs as flight service station specialists in Alaska.
Instead of training at the FAA academy in Oklahoma City, participants may follow a two- or four-year college program at UAA to pass the required curriculum for the flight service.
UAA Chancellor Lee Gorsuch told the FAA that the partnership will be "extraordinarily beneficial" to pilots in Alaska.
Pat King is a reporter for the Alaska Journal of Commerce.
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