HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — With all the support leading up to the Board of Governors June 28 meeting on Marshall’s proposed aviation programs, MU President Jerome Gilbert was not surprised with the most recent developments.
Marshall’s BOG approved an “intent to plan” at its meeting in Beckley, leaving just a couple more hurdles in the way of the hopeful Fall 2021 launch of the aviation school.
“We were certainly very pleased with the Board of Governors’ approval for our intent to plan,” Gilbert said.
“But we were not surprised because we had strong support from the beginning when we discussed this with them and other people. We have had positive support all over the state.”
Marshall officials said the aviation science programs, which will include four-year bachelor degrees associated with fixed-wing (airplanes) and rotor-wing (helicopters), will be administered at Marshall’s South Charleston campus and Yeager Airport in Charleston.
Gilbert said the university is in the midst of establishing an agreement with Southern Utah University for further partnership in the program.
The two schools agreed on a Memorandum of Agreement in February to jointly offer bachelor programs.
He added the next agreement will be in terms of what each school can do and what each school is responsible for as Marshall will share SUU’s Federal Aviation Administration’s certification.
Marshall Provost Jaime Taylor said the partnership with Southern Utah is crucial.
“If this was being done by Marshall University alone we would have the funding to do a fixed-wing program, which is a huge demand nationally,” he said.
“But by bringing Southern Utah into this, they are going to help invest in this program, purchasing the helicopters. It’s going to allow us to do both a fixed wing and helicopter program.”
Taylor said there is a limited number of four-year fixed wing programs in the eastern portion of the United States with only one in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia.
According to Taylor, tier one airlines such as Delta and American only hire pilots with four-year degrees, putting Marshall’s potential program in the spotlight.
“We have people contacting us regularly asking when is this program going to be up and running because they want to get into it,” he said.
Taylor said that students will be earning certificates along the way to their four-year degree including in private pilot, commercial pilot, and junior flight instruction.
Those participating in the program may have the opportunity to stay in a dorm at Marshall’s South Charleston campus.
Gilbert said after Marshall and Southern Utah sign an agreement to continue the partnership, MU will begin to look into requests for proposals of building a private residence hall.
Marshall expects around 300 students in the program once it gets established but will plan the residence hall by phases, with 50 to 75 beds being built first.
From there, Marshall plans to look into construction at Yeager Airport for a classroom facility and look at what needs to be done in terms of a hangar facility.
Gilbert said he was very thankful for the help from Yeager Airport, director Terry Sayre and its board as well as the West Virginia National Guard, Civil Air Patrol, and alumni in aviation for reaching out.
According to Gilbert, Marshall is also looking into a 2-year program with Mountwest Community and Technical College for an aircraft maintenance program to be held at Tri-State Airport.
The entire “intent to plan” and program design will be brought in front of Marshall’s BOG this Fall and if approved a Fall 2021 launch date is expected.