Monday, April 16, 2012

Pilot's degree eyed by University of Windsor - $22,500 given to develop new program

By Ilana Belfer, The Windsor Star 
April 16, 2012 4:05 AM
A program that - if approved - would grant aspiring pilots a license to fly and a university degree is one of 30 new initiatives being funded by the University of Windsor's Strategic Priority Fund.

By combining flight training with university courses, the Commercial Aviation and Aerospace Leadership program would respond to a growing demand in the aviation and aerospace industry due to an aging workforce and technological advancements, said Cecil Houston, dean of the arts and social sciences faculty.

"Because of the demographics of current pilots ... there will be a lot of them who are going to be leaving the industry in the next few years and there is enormous expansion in the use of aircraft across the world, so this is really a global demand," Houston said. He also pointed to a 2010 report by the Canadian Aviation Maintenance Council, which called for pilot training to adopt a more diverse curriculum, rather than focusing solely on hours spent inflight.

While Western University, the University of Waterloo and Seneca College offer similar programs, Houston said there are more applicants than there are spots available.

Students in the program would study engineering, social sciences, arts, and business - but that's just on the ground. Simulation training would speed up the process of getting the prospective pilots in the air, with flight lessons likely taking place at Windsor Airport, Houston said.

"One of the things we're aiming for here is to tie what we do to some of the developments that are happening in the community like the development of the airport, and the development of the airlines industry here," said Leo Groarke, the university's provost and vice president academic.

Until now, Windsor area residents could get flight training at the Windsor Flying Club, but it has never been tied with a university degree. Graduates of the University of Windsor's program would receive a bachelor of arts in liberal and professional studies with a specialty in aeronautics leadership.

The $22,500 from the Strategic Priority Fund will be used as seed money to develop the new program, Houston said. It's currently being considered by the university's program development committee and Houston said he expects a final decision by summer. Ideally, the program would start in fall of 2013, Groarke said.

The fund, which was established in 2009-10, allocates about $1.5 million of the university's operating budget to new programs and initiatives each year.

Other recipients of funding include the Faculty of Science, which will be getting a community outreach co-coordinator, and 4Winds, a summer camp that aims to engage aboriginal youth in science, math, engineering and technology because aboriginal people are presently under-represented in those fields.

The fund will provide $80,000 for a "live building portal" at the $112-million Centre for Engineering Innovation being built at Wyandotte Street and California Avenue. The portal will use sensors to track data about the performance of the building, which is set to open in the fall. Things like wind distribution, the transmission of sound, and air flow for the heating and cooling systems will be monitored and then used as a teaching tool for the engineering students.


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