Air Superiority

Bowling Green Flight Center adds five Piper aircraft to fleet

By Bob Cunningham

It’s easy to see all of the significant improvements Bowling Green State University has made recently to campus.

All you have to do is look around — or in this case, up.

This spring, the Bowling Green Flight Center added five new aircraft, all Piper Warriors, for BGSU Aviation students to pilot. Three of the Warriors are brand-new 2016 models purchased directly from the manufacturer, Piper Aircraft, in Vero Beach, Fla. The BG Flight Center also purchased a 2006 model and a 2002 model and completely refurbished them from tip to tail. 

“While the new Pipers were being built, the company also was able to purchase two refurbished planes,” said Catherine E. Smith, chief flight instructor and full-time faculty member in the BGSU Aviation program. “The company had the planes completely refurbished with new paint, interiors and engines. So, in essence, you have two more totally new airplanes.” 

Overall, it was more than a $1 million investment in the BGSU Aviation program by North Star Aviation, the parent company of the BG Flight Center.  

"The new fleet of aircraft is great for our students and the aviation studies program,” said Venu Dasigi, interim dean of the College of Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering. "I see this development as the latest of many great and positive changes that we have been able to bring to our aviation students, made possible thanks to the synergistic partnership between BGSU and North Star Aviation, which has resulted in the new Bowling Green Flight Center. It also speaks to the collective and shared passion for offering the best opportunities for our students that defines this partnership."

“The Bowling Green Flight Center has been able to provide students with a beautiful environment and unbelievably capable airplanes,” Smith said. “Having the students benefit from all of these resources in a safe environment throughout their professional pilot training and education is the No. 1 goal. That is our sole mission.” 

All of the aircraft have state-of-the-art avionics and cockpit instrumentation, and each of the Warriors takes a valuable place in the fleet alongside the existing Piper Arrow and Piper Seminole. 

Having an all-Piper fleet not only makes it easier to maintain the planes but it also streamlines the learning process for students who start with the Warrior and transition to the Arrow and eventually the Seminole. 

“The Warrior is now the foundation of our primary training aircraft, joined by the Arrow and then the Seminole, so now the fleet has been streamlined with all Piper-manufactured aircraft,” said Smith, who compared it to having a garage full of Hondas instead of a Chevy, a Toyota and a Ford. “The students in transitioning will have fewer differences. The students will be more accustomed to how the plane flies, how it handles and how to perform the pre-flight inspections.

“A lot of what we do is try to make a transition easier for students because they are going to grow in the program and they’re going to have to go through different levels of training and difficulty. Transition training (from one plane to another) will be less challenging because they stay in the Piper family the whole way through.”

Updating the fleet of training aircraft is the latest example of BGSU Aviation students having the best opportunities to put them on a runway to career success. The BG Flight Center, a 16,800 square-foot facility, opened in April of 2015 at East Poe Road and Tarragon Drive.

“If you look out at our fleet, the planes are absolutely beautiful, they’re striking,” Smith said. “I think from a recruiting standpoint the beautiful building we now reside in brings a distinct advantage, providing a bright, fresh image and a comfortable place for the students to train.”

Then there’s the exhilaration of opening the cockpit of a brand-new Piper Warrior and experiencing that “new-car smell.” Only these cars have wings.

“Not many people get to walk out the door of a flight school as a pilot in training and get into a brand new, factory-new aircraft to fly in, day in and day out,” Smith said. “That’s the cool part. Somebody was willing to invest in the student and say, ‘I think this is an incredible tool for you and I think it’s going to make your training that much better.’ I think our students are very lucky.” 

Thanks to the new aircraft, Smith said students will be well prepared for the next steps they take in the aviation industry after graduating from BGSU.

“We’re going to give students all the tools they’re going to need no matter what they get into out there,” Smith said. “You have to do your best to prepare students for any situation. You put them out there in all kinds of those environments and you build their workload and tolerance and their skills and knowledge. When they leave here, they’re very capable pilots. That’s a core philosophy for us.”