Student pilots in The College of Aeronautics and Engineering experiencing delays in flights

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Nikki the Top Hawk Cessna aircraft at the Kent State airport.

Mateo Martin Reporter

Student pilots at Kent State are experiencing delays in flying opportunities due to the unprecedented size of the freshman class.

It’s not unusual for pilot programs to experience delays. A Kent Stater article written by Lyric Aquino in 2017 addressed delays due to a lack of instructors.

Most of the time the issues stem from three categories: weather, number of flight instructors and aircraft availability. According to Brian Neff, assistant dean of flight operations, the reason for the current delays is availability of aircraft.

“This year we’ve had a really big increase in flight hours, and the FAA regulations require us to inspect aircraft every 50 hours. And our aircrafts are hitting that threshold way sooner than we’re used to,” he said.

Neff graduated from the student pilot program and has worked at Kent State since 2010. The program experiencing availability issues is not new to him, but it is more exemplified because of the large freshman class this year.

Eddie McDonnel is a freshman in the private pilot program at Kent State enduring some of these issues. He thinks that weather and instructors are apparent challenges, but not the beast they are facing right now.

“The College admitted too many freshmen, and ultimately that circles back to our maintenance,” he said. “Weather will always be a factor in Northeast Ohio, but to say weather alone is responsible would be misleading.”

Students in all grades are frustrated like Eddie, and the school wants to remind students how often challenges can occur when becoming a pilot. As frustrating as that may be, the program just wants students to be in safe hands when they take off.

“We hold ourselves to a very high standard there,” Alyssa Robinson, Director of Strategic Communications and External Engagement said. “We will never jeopardize our students’ safety for a flight.”

Compromising the safety and integrity of the program for a short term challenge is not on the table for Neff. Pressuring mechanics to work faster and cut corners is never an option or smart move.

Neff and Robinson want students to remember that it is a four year process, but they still want to minimize any setbacks for the future. The college is reevaluating their curriculum to help streamline flight courses and make it easier for their students to move forward.

Mateo Martin covers research and the environment. Contact him at [email protected]