Aeronautical Program Taking Flight at UH Hilo

Recent milestones and what’s in store for the Aeronautical Science Program

Writer: Angela Ituriaga
Position: Media Manager
Graphic Designer: Naomi Lemeiux
Photo provided by Tim Ward

Graphic of an airplane in the sky.

In Spring 2019, Ke Kalahea reported that a new major was being presented into UH Hilo’s course catalog. Ke Kalahea corresponded with Tim Ward, the aeronautical sciences program coordinator regarding the arrival of the Aeronautics Science major.

In July 2019, the program was provisionally accredited, meaning that it needed to fulfill certain requirements as a major within a state university, the main requirement being the existence of an MOU, or memorandum of understanding, with a flight school. Ward told Ke Kalahea that they had landed an MOU with ATP Flight School in Arizona. Thus, in July of this year, the program became fully accredited by WASC. The accreditation legitimizes the program which gives Ward hope that the degree will now gain more support from his constituents.

As explained previously by Ke Kalahea, the program would offer two tracks: the actual pilot program, Commercial Professional Pilot Training (CPPT), and the Commercial Aerial Information Technology (CAIT). Both tracks will essentially run the same for the first three years, the fourth year is when students choose their concentration. For the CAIT track, students obtain necessary licensure to find careers in aerial IT; with opportunities to work for the Department of Defense or even the Department of Agriculture in Hawaiʻi. As for the Professional Pilot track, students would go to a flight school to obtain their pilot’s license.

Ward explains that there is only one endowment/financial support for students looking at flight school. Federal financial aid, such as FAFSA, does not cover the cost of ATP, so students are expected to pay a $86,000 lump sum out of pocket. Ward even mentions that a hopeful student is currently delivering pizzas to save up for flight school. Ward focuses on teaching his students to be resourceful and motivates them to have emotional intelligence in addition to the technical skills required. He believes that with the right motivation and strong passion, anyone could become a pilot, while adding that anyone could pursue their dreams, putting stress on his students’ professional and personal developmentHaving emotional intelligence, according to Ward, is especially important as a pilot since a majority of the jobs in the field require days at a time away from family and loved ones.

Photograph of Tim Ward, smiling.

Ward knows that $86,000 is a lot of money to attain in time to apply to flight school . The other option, CAIT, is meant to help students buy more time. Ward tells Ke Kalahea he likes to sit down with each student to spend some time going over their plan and what they want out of this degree. One of Ward’s students are also in pursuit to join the military as an officer of flight positions

The program currently has 25-26 freshman students and 15 students who are expecting to be the first graduating class in 2022.

According to Ward, the program is geared towards seniors/experienced students right now but hopes it can encourage more school students to be interested in the program as the program receives more support and resources. Ward is expecting to receive new simulation modules on campus next semester, which will help students with their simulation training.

Ke Kalahea asked Ward how the program is planning to create a good learning experience due to COVID-19 and distant learning. He says that the program, just like any other department, is learning how to adjust and sticks to his beliefs about being resourceful.