BGSU aviation program expands fleet amid record enrollment, deepens commitment to student success and outcomes

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – In response to expanding enrollment, the nationally recognized Bowling Green State University aviation program is growing its fleet of training aircraft and flight simulators while deepening its commitment to training students using the most modern technology available.

Seven new aircraft and three new flight simulators will be added to the fleet in 2023 as part of a continuation of a key public-private partnership between BGSU and North Star Companies, which owns and operates the BG Flight Center.

This year’s $4.5 million investment in aircraft and flight simulators bolsters the University’s reputation as home to one of the most modern training aircraft fleets in the U.S.

“We’re grateful our partnership with North Star Companies has allowed us to expand our fleet to accommodate the record-setting levels of enrollment to ensure there are no compromises in student experiences,” said Melissa Webb, general manager of the BG Flight Center. “The addition of these new aircraft will allow us to phase out older aircraft and maintain our commitment to providing students with modern technology.”

BGSU has one of the largest aviation programs in Ohio and the U.S. and is one of the few universities in the country with an airport on its campus.

In its continued effort to respond to workforce needs amid a nationwide pilot shortage, the University partnered with Republic Airways, one of the largest regional airlines in the U.S., to provide students with a faster pathway to a career in aviation.

The incoming class of students specializing in Flight Technology and Operations, the degree path for those interested in becoming commercial pilots, is expected to be the largest in the program’s history, with 180 to 200 students.

Providing students with flying experience during their first year is a distinct feature of the aviation program, ranked No. 4 nationally by FLYING magazine.

“A huge draw for our program is our ability to provide first-year students with flying experience whether in their first or second semester, and we want to ensure we can continue providing that unique benefit even as enrollment grows,” said Bryan Combs, BG Flight Center director of safety.

The University received a new Piper Seminole in the spring, three new Piper Archer aircraft in July, and the remaining Piper Archers are excepted to arrive in late fall, bringing the total to 26. An estimated 14 factory-new planes will be added to the fleet through 2025.

Some of the new aircraft will eventually replace six existing planes to create a standardized fleet with G1000 avionics — the industry’s most advanced general aviation avionics system.

“Our public-private partnership allows us to move at the speed of the industry,” said BGSU Chief Flight Instructor Catherine Smith ‘98, ‘08. “Being able to continually upgrade our fleet as technology evolves provides our students with continuity in their training. They’re not going from an analog system to digital or switching between different makes and models of airplanes, which is a significant benefit to our students.”

The aviation program is also replacing two existing simulators and adding a new L3 Harris CRJ 900 jet simulator that will be used during a capstone jet transition course.

The two new Precision Flight Controls motion simulators provide upgraded and specialized technology that reflects the Piper training aircraft and have a smaller footprint to allow room for additional simulators in the future, Combs said.

“Our program prides itself on ensuring students are highly prepared for careers in aviation upon graduation,” Combs said. “One way we accomplish that is by training them on the most modern technology available, which allows them to seamlessly transition from their educational career into their professional careers as pilots.”

The aviation program is now housed in the newly established School of Aviation, created during a landmark reconfiguration of the College of Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering.

Updated: 02/15/2024 04:49PM