Education //
March 21, 2019

RCTC’s New Aviation Pilot Program

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Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) has a new program starting this fall, and the story behind building it is newsworthy.

This fall, RCTC will be starting an aviation (pilot) program. The story of how it started and came to where it is today is simple and yet the process has its roots in program excellence.

Mary Davenport, former Interim President at RCTC, was aware of the well documented international pilot shortage, Rochester’s anticipated growth and demographics, and the increasing regional demand for an airport and related airline economy. She had a conversation with John Reed, A.A.E. Executive Director of the Rochester International Airport and the discussion on a local aviation pilot program began.

RCTC knew they had to be swift in their response to the industry demand, knowing that all of the other aviation training programs in Minnesota were at capacity. RCTC learned that it takes a lot to start an aviation program and that most programs have been built over many years.

The college had discussions partnered with Minnesota State University – Mankato on their program and sought a partnership that could balance the local response and yet provide an excellent program from the beginning. RCTC sought to build a standardized curriculum that would transfer into the MSU-Mankato’s aviation program. RCTC also partnered with Great Planes Aviation to offer flight instruction. RCTC and Great Planes continue to work with another new aviation program at Ozark Technical and Community College, learning from their experiences.

One feature that RCTC learned from Ozark is that it is important to add the FAA Certified Flight Instructor and Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument (CFI and CFII) into the curriculum. The certifications may open pilot employment opportunities early in their education.

This is not your typical program. The RCTC program combines one or two general education courses with a few aviation and flight instruction courses each semester. RCTC students will begin flight instruction in the first semester beginning the fall 2019 semester. There are general education courses that high school students can take as PSEO in preparation for the program. The semester schedule allows flexibility for students to schedule their individual flight instruction.

The key to any partnership is to listen to others needs, asking questions, and having frequent communication. RCTC, MSU – Mankato, Ozark Technical and Community College, Great Planes Aviation, and the Rochester Airport communicate often. RCTC has also had conversations with Lake Superior College to learn about their successes with their aviation program and their industry partnerships. The demand is so great that we find value in working together. Building the RCTC program has been a very collaborative experience.