I agree wholeheartedly with the comments of professor Stephen Worchel (published May 5) with regard to the proposed “international” flying school. The proposal, for which the University of Hawaii at Hilo was allocated $100,000 was, to put in gently, “stupid.” It is stupid when there are other far more important needs of the university. To name one: the College of Pharmacy is in danger of losing its accreditation since it does not have a building but is rather spread across many locations on the campus with students acting as nomads shuttled from building to building.
The state saw fit to not allocate the funds to provide the needed building but did find funds to start a program that is not needed and has, in any case, a dubious rationale. For example, it is not clear if the program would train foreign students to return to their countries and find aviation jobs, or will the focus be to train students (largely American, I would think) to operate in foreign environments. These are quite different goals requiring different structures and faculty.
Another issue is the demand for such a program, assuming that the university here was competent to carry it out. There are at least a hundred colleges and universities on the mainland that have such a program, 11 on the West Coast from Alaska down to California. The characteristic of all of these programs, which provide a bachelor’s degree in an aviation related subject in addition to flight training, is strong engineering and/or business schools. UHH has neither. The full list of colleges and universities that provide such training is at: http://flighttraining.aopa.org/learntofly/school/aviation_colleges/.
Professor Worchel touched on the issue of increased levels of noise. This is a serious problem since the approach ends of the two runways most in use (8 and 3) come directly over residential, hotel and private buildings. The program so briefly described would require not only additional single engine aircraft, but also multi-engine and even jet planes. In order to be financially viable, the aircraft would be in almost constant use, thus increasing the noise level significantly to an intolerable level.
I am not some aviation hating person, but rather an academic as well as a pilot and a certified flight instructor. I even keep a small plane parked at the airport. But, the development of a strong university in Hilo is much more important than mounting an incredibly expensive and unneeded program. UHH can have a bright future, but only if it devotes its energies to supporting and shoring up the few excellent programs that it does have and not go off chasing will-of-the wisps no matter how sexy.