Monday, April 7, 2014

Western Michigan University: College of Aviation celebrating 75 years of aviation education in 2014

BATTLE CREEK, MI – Western Michigan University aviation flight science student Josh Blain leveled the wings of his Cirrus SR20 and extended the flaps as he commenced his approach to W.K. Kellogg Airport.

"Western 44, you're cleared for a touch and go on runway one-three," the air traffic controller said.

A few seconds later, after feeling the main landing gear kiss the runway, Blain applied full power and nudged the Cirrus off the ground and began climbing to set up for another touch and go landing.

Touch and go landings, such as the one that Blain performed, are just one of many aviation maneuvers taught to students at WMU's College of Aviation, which in 2014 is celebrating 75 years of aviation education.

Beginning in 1939 with a maintenance program, WMU's involvement with aviation education has expanded to offer degrees in aviation flight science, aviation management and aviation maintenance technology.

In 1999, the existing WMU School of Aviation became the WMU College of Aviation, making it the university's seventh college.

Currently with a fleet of advanced training aircraft, modern facilities in Battle Creek and more than 700 undergraduate students in the program, celebrating 75 years of aviation education is an historic event, college officials said.

"1903 is when fixed wing aircraft with the Wright brothers started," College of Aviation recruitment and outreach officer Scott Warner said. "We have 75 years of history with them so we have the majority of aviation's life under our belt. 75 years is a huge milestone."

Showing students, members of the community and those thinking of attending the college how aviation at WMU has unfolded is something that College of Aviation business manager Dace Copeland says is vital during this celebration.

"We need to know what our history is so that we can move forward too and I think that that's really important," Copeland said. "We get a lot of visitors that come through here and we always want to show them what we're doing and what we have."

WMU's College of Aviation will hold events throughout the next few months, culminating in a 75th Anniversary Celebration Gala on Oct. 24.

For the full list of events, visit

Story and photo gallery: 

Major Aviation Events at WMU 

• 1939 - Department of Vocational Aviation is formed.
• 1946 - SkyBroncos flying club is formed.
• 1955 - Flight training begins at Plainwell Airport.
• 1959 -Flight training moves to Kalamazoo Airport.
• 1972 - Students are able to earn multi-engine rating.
• 1995 - School of Aviation Sciences is formed.
• 1997 - School of Aviation moves to Battle Creek.
• 1999 - School of Aviation becomes College of Aviation.
• 2002 - Flight team wins fifth national championship.
• 2005 - Delivery of Cirrus training aircraft begins.