The College of Aviation at Western Michigan University is one of the top collegiate aviation training programs in the world. It is the third largest school in the United States, and it is also the only public university in Michigan that has a complete program. The three main bachelor degrees offered by the school are Aviation Flight Science, Aviation Management and Operations, and Aviation Maintenance Technology. The college is located about 45 minutes away from Kalamazoo at the W. K. Kellogg Airport. It has a flight operations building, an education center, maintenance center, and several different hangars to store the variety of aircraft that the school owns.
The training fleet is composed of 26 Cirrus SR-20’s, 7 Piper Seminole’s, a Piper Arrow, and a Piper Super Cub on amphibious floats.
The SR-20 is used for primary training with Private and Instrument students. It’s equipped with the Avidyne R9 Avionics, with a full glass cockpit including dual GPS systems with moving map displays and synthetic vision. The plane is powered by a Teledyne Continental IO-360 ES 200hp engine, that gives an impressive cruise speed of around 140kts at a regular power setting.
The Piper Seminole is used for commercial multi-engine training. It is powered by Textron Lycoming O-360-A1H6/LO-360-A1H6 engines, each with 180hp. Both students and instructors often say that the Piper Seminole is one of the most enjoyable aircraft to fly. It has very capable avionics, and it is known for handling smoothly and predictably.
The Piper Arrow is a complex aircraft with retractable landing gear; it is used for commercial single-engine training and certified flight instructor (CFI) classes that the college offers as an additional option.
The Piper Super Cub is affectionately known around the college as the “Rubber Ducky”. The in-house maintenance department installed the floats on the aircraft, and since then it has been used for the optional sea-plane rating. During the summer months (when Michigan isn’t completely frozen) the bright yellow plane is often spotted near Gull Lake. Many of the local residents enjoy spotting the plane landing next to the countless yachts and sailing boats on the lake.
During the last two years that I have been here at the College of Aviation, I have never once regretted my decision to come here. There have been highs and lows throughout my training, but I have always felt that it is a tremendous program that is preparing me for my future career. Personally, one of my favorite parts of the school is the amazing people you go to classes with and develop strong friendships with. The relatively large size of the school brings together many like-minded people that share similar passions and goals in life. I have always appreciated the chance to meet students from many different states (and countries) who have all come to the same place in search of a strong aviation education.
Another highlight of Western Michigan University is the countless other opportunities that the school offers outside of the aviation program. With over 200 other degree programs, students have the option to take interesting classes outside of their major. Many people also take advantage of the flexibility offered and can double-major or minor in other subjects. Several friends that I know have branched out and started to focus on foreign languages, international business, or various education degrees that Western offers, while still focusing primarily on aviation.
I also love the small town feel that Kalamazoo provides, even though WMU is quite large with over 24,000 students. The school has a large enough student body for us to have competitive teams in many sports. Recently our football team, hockey team, and soccer team have all made national headlines with their successful seasons. Few other schools can offer the same combination of being a large, public university and having a top-ranked aviation college like Western does. I have felt a sense of belonging here since the very first week when I started.
Depending on how my flight training and other classes proceed, I will most likely continue studying here for another two years. I am looking forward to the future opportunities and challenges that Western Michigan University will continue to offer. I can confidently say that this is the place for me, and that I would not choose to be anywhere else.
Read more about Western Michigan University and the College of Aviation on their website:
The college was also recently featured by AOPA Live in a video segment: