Steve Boulton, director of the Lane Aviation Academy, has been the director of the program for about 5 years now. When he started, he was told his budget for expansion was zero. Through his fundraising efforts, which include several grants, Boulton was able to secure the purchase of two new RV-12's, which cost $115,000 each. The increased maneuverability gives students who have never flown before an easier opportunity when they go in the air for the first time.
(Alan Sylvestre/The Register-Guard)
Imagine flying 4,000 feet over the Willamette Valley in a two-seater airplane, with a 180-degree view that on a clear day can range from the snow-capped heights of Mount Hood in the north to the blue tint of Crater Lake in the south.
To those in the Lane Aviation Academy, that’s a sight they can see nearly daily — from the comfort of two newly acquired RV-12 light sport aircraft.
The new airplanes, which cost $115,000 each, come equipped with many instruments and a state-of-the-art design that makes them more maneuverable to fly than others in Lane Community College’s current fleet, said Steve Boulton, aviation academy director.
For starters, the planes have a lighter shell than do other planes in the current fleet, Boulton said. “That allows students to have more control over the direction of the plane while in the air,” he said.
Another factor that contributes to the two planes being better for instruction is their full autopilot capability. Boulton said that allows him to provide one-on-one instruction with students without the students having to focus their attention on flying the plane.
For a typical training flight, Boulton likes to average between 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Other planes in the program’s fleet currently carry enough fuel for a maximum three-hour flight. But the new RV-12s have a capacity for 20 gallons, which according to Boulton gives them the option to be in the air for around four hours.
The RV-12s also are equipped with ergonomically designed seating, durable interior matte paint, upholstered interior, 12-volt power outlet, day and night LED lighting for added safety, and removable wings for easier storage.
The purchase of the planes is a significant milestone in Boulton’s career as director of the program. When he first took over five years ago, Boulton said he was told he had a zero budget for advertising and expansion.
The RV-12’s are built at Synergy Air, a company based out of the Eugene Airport that trains those interested in the mechanics of aviation how to build planes.
Chris Thelan, a production test pilot with Synergy, said he feels the RV-12s are easier for a beginner pilot to learn in than any of the other models that the company produces.
“One of the biggest things that make these easier to fly is that they can be flown at slower airspeed,” Thelan said. “For example, in a typical light sport aircraft, you have to approach the runway at about 65 knots, but in the RV-12s, you can approach the runway at about 55 knots, making them easier to handle for beginners.”
As program director, Boulton said his goal is to help graduates secure positions in a highly competitive industry. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there was an estimated 104,000 jobs for commercial pilots in 2012, compared to an estimated 119,000 who received pilot certifications.
Boulton hopes the new planes will strengthen the credibility of the program for the benefit of students.
“In our industry, I’m noticing a need for more, well-trained pilots,” Boulton said. “With these RV-12s, I think we’re going to be able to both expand our program, and train pilots in such a fashion that they’ll be able to get good, well-paying jobs.”
Story and Photos: http://registerguard.com