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Published: Saturday, 2/22/2014 - Updated: 9 months ago

Flight school program to be privately operated

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University privatized portions of its flight school in a deal that includes building a new hangar and classroom facility.

The university’s board of trustees on Friday unanimously approved a land lease with Bowling Green Flight Center LLC, a subsidiary of the Minnesota-based North Star Aviation.

BGSU will pay the company a management fee to provide student-flight training. The flight center also will receive funds from student-flight fees.

In return, the flight center plans to start construction this spring of a $2.5 million project to include classrooms, offices, and a hangar at East Poe Road and Tarragon Drive in Bowling Green.

University officials praised the partnership as an opportunity to enhance and expand BGSU's aviation program, which enrolls about 120 students seeking a bachelor of science in technology degree, while maintaining faculty oversight.

“The major benefit for us is what the students will see in terms of their experience on the flight portion of the instruction,” said Venu Dasigi, interim dean for the college of technology, architecture, and applied engineering.

A five-year management agreement with the flight center calls for the university to pay $185,000 annually for the first two years of flight instruction program management.

The fee drops to $65,000 by the fifth year, and the goal is to continue to lower the fee as enrollment increases, officials said.

The flight center also will receive funds from flight course fees paid by students, an estimated $450,000 a semester at present — an amount that will grow if more students enroll.

BGSU sold its fleet of nine airplanes and aviation-related equipment to the flight center for $835,300. The flight center is refurbishing the planes and will pay for fuel, new planes, and other technology required for flight instruction.

BGSU previously employed part-time instructors as needed — numbering a dozen in the fall 2013 semester — to provide flight instruction. Those positions are now hired and paid by the flight center. Many of the same instructors will continue under the new operation, and the changes will not affect BGSU faculty positions, officials said.

The university agreed to lease property it owns to the company, which will finance, own, and operate a new, roughly 8,000-square foot terminal with a similarly sized hangar. The facility will replace the Technology Annex, which was built in 1945 and will be torn down.

“This will be [a] night-and-day upgrade,” said Joseph Frizado, vice provost for academic operations and assessment.

Matt McVicker, Wood County Regional Airport manager, said the new building will help attract more students to the university’s flight program, which in turn supports the airport. Fuel sales constitute the airport’s biggest revenue source, and the flight center will purchase fuel from the airport, he said.

A message left Friday at North Star’s Minnesota office was not returned. The company currently has a similar arrangement with a flight program at Minnesota State University in Mankato.

BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey said the plan fits with the university’s strategy to build more partnerships and likened the effort to the new student-health center, which opened last year in partnership with Wood County Hospital.

In a Friday meeting at the BGSU Firelands campus near Huron, Ohio, the board also approved the addition of a master’s program in applied geospatial sciences and loosened its on-campus residency rules to be more in-line with other state universities.

The board approved the next phase associated with an estimated $12.2 million renovation of the college of health and human services building at the Bowling Green campus. The project is to be paid for with state funds and bond proceeds.

Trustees also approved architectural and engineering work, at a cost of about $1.6 million, for Moseley Hall, another university renovation project.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.



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