Local college reaches new heights by expanding aviation program

A local college is reaching new heights, expanding its aviation program, and in turn attracting more students. Northwestern Michigan College's Aviation Program is expecting a 60% increase in students for its incoming fall class.

Not only will the NMC Aviation Program be celebrating its 45th anniversary this fall but also its new incoming class will grow from 25 students to nearly 45 students.

NMC Aviation Director Aaron Cook says, "It's actually been about 20 years since we've seen numbers like this. This isn't the biggest the program has ever been, but in recent history itâ??s a good growth!"

To meet this hike in enrollment, NMC board members gave the program $260,000 dollars to buy an additional plane, bringing the grand total to 14 planes for the program.

The expansion has been three years in the making and in that time aviation directors implemented some notable changes. Theyâ??ve added a full time program recruiter, specialized drone vehicle training and also created some prosperous international partnerships. Cook explains, "Partnering with Air North Engineering Schools from the UK and India, those students come over here for short summer course or some come for the full program and that's also helped expand our numbers."

And a new plane and more students mean the creation of new job opportunities within the program. Cook says, â??Weâ??re probably going to bring in probably four to five additional flight instructors, potentially additional maintenance staff, dispatching, all of jobs that are required to support the growth."

And the benefits don't end there; this expansion will also have a positive trickle down effect on the community. Cook explains, "With the airport, the airport is partially funded by take-offs and landings, so the more activity that goes on at the airport, the more federal money to come to the region. So weâ??re really happy to be able to support that!"

NMC Aviation Directors are actively looking to buy the additional plane and hope to officially put one in service by August 27th. Plane will be paid for by funds from the NMC Aviation Program's Equipment Capital Account and will be used, in an effort to save some money.