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TWU flight training program reach deal with local academy for fall takeoff

The Texas Woman’s University Doswell School of Aeronautical Sciences is one vote away from a partnership with U.S. Aviation Academy, a company based at Denton Enterprise Airport.
DRC file photo
The Texas Woman’s University Doswell School of Aeronautical Sciences is one vote away from a partnership with U.S. Aviation Academy, a company based at Denton Enterprise Airport.

Update : As of Friday morning, The TWU Board of Regents voted to approve the contract with U.S. Aviation Group LLC.

Texas Woman’s University regents are poised to approve a contract with a local aviation company Friday, a move that will allow the university to start its new flight training program in the fall.

The contract will be with U.S. Aviation Group LLC, which operates U.S. Aviation Academy at Denton Enterprise Airport.

After the Friday vote, O. Finley Graves, the interim executive vice president of academic affairs at TWU, said Pioneers will take flight in the fall.

“Good news,” Graves told the regents Thursday, as they voted to put workshop items on the consent agenda for Friday. “Amazing news just keeps coming out of aviation. We’re going to be flying this fall. Kids in airplanes!”

Regents applauded, and students and faculty who gathered at the TWU Dallas campus clapped and cheered at the news of the largest donation in TWU history — a $15 million gift one year ago from the Doswell Foundation. The gift seeded the Doswell School of Aeronautical Sciences.

The gift and the new aeronautical sciences center represent a pact that TWU leaders made with the aviation industry in Dallas-Fort Worth and beyond. Last year, TWU Chancellor Carine Feyten said that the center would give more women and women of color a crack at the cockpit. The Doswell center and TWU would extend the benefits of a career with six-figure earnings and travel to more women, and North Texas would reap the benefits of new generation of qualified, trained pilots in a time when the airline industry sorely needs them. Some estimates say that the U.S. will need 30,000 commercial pilots by 2030.

J. Clint Grant, the director of TWU’s new aeronautical school, has been working on the center for two years and was officially hired as the director last year. He’s been meeting parents and students to promote the program and developing a curriculum.

“The advantages of U.S. Aviation are pretty obvious,” Grant said. “We’re really pleased that they were awarded the contract. They’re already located at the Denton airport, which saves a lot of time and effort. They hold a 141 air agency certificate, which is the rule under the Federal Aviation Regulations that we have to have to operate.”

The biggest advantage for inking a contract with the local aviation school is that it has “self-examining authority,” which means U.S. Aviation can issue students a pilot’s license after they complete their coursework, without students having to take an Federal Aviation Administration checkride. A checkride is a flight test that is often likened to a driving test. A student takes direction from a flight instructor.

“There is a huge shortage in this country for designated examiners and FAA examiners, but the students that have to take that final checkride before they get their certificate or rating,” Grant said. “They have self-examining authority, which saves our students lots of money and heartache and time. So, that was a big advantage, and so we’re really pleased.”

Grant said TWU will do all the ground training and classroom work. U.S. Aviation will do the flight training.

Grant said the contract is for a two-year partnership with the option to extend the contract. The Doswell Center will have 30 flight slots for its inaugural class, and the university’s estimated costs total $1.3 million a year.

Grant said U.S. Aviation is painting some of the planes TWU students will use in the school’s colors, and the university is planning to put the TWU owl in flight on the tails of the aircraft students will train in.

“We expect to launch the program in fall ’24, if everything — knock on wood, you know — if everything goes right,” Grant said.

TWU regent Bernadette Coleman said the development is a boon for the university and the area.

“I’m just so happy that this is going to come out of the Denton airport,” she said. “It’s so much easier for our students, so I really think that is just phenomenal.”

Grant said the fuel costs will be considerable but that the pump cost for fully fueled aircraft is part of the contract. Grant also said a donor plans to award a scholarship for a single student for a full ride, paying about $35,000 a year for four years.

Friday’s vote seems like a formality, given regents’ excitement about landing a local partner and their unanimous vote to put the contract approval on the board’s consent agenda.

“We’re super excited,” Feyten said.