From WILL - News Local/State -

Parkland Trustees Approve Plan To Operate UI’s Institute Of Aviation

Parkland College Trustees have unanimously approved an agreement to take over the University of Illinois’ Institute of Aviation. 

The Institute's chief pilot at the Institute of Aviation said she only recently began to believe her facility would have a future.

Sybil Phillips called Wednesday's unanimous vote by Parkland trustees a very positive sign about the future of flight training. 

U of I Trustees voted to end the program in 2011, citing low enrollment and cost savings of more than $700,000.

Phillips said the community college trustees had clearly put in a lot of research into the plan, judging from the lack of discussion and quick approval.  But she said the 3-year intergovernmental agreement is only in the initial stages.

"I think that the vote last night is step one of probably a thousand steps that need to happen before everything’s in place," she said.  "So there are a lot of issues to be worked out, but I just feel like the messages I received from Parkland are very positive, and people are very eager to move forward.”

The program will resume at the community college in the fall of 2014, a three-year plan that in part relies on an agreement with Riverside Research in the U of I’s Research Park. 

Research Manager Glen Salo says the office has expanded operations in recent years in order to provide flight training operations and research, but there are other plans in the works.

"Riverside definitely has a vision to go just beyond a flight school," he said.  "We are doing work currently in the local community with unmanned aerial systems.  We're working with precision agricultural-type applications.  We believe that those types of things can be supported by that flight school."

Salo says the aircraft fleet will be refurbished as the program expands under Parkland. The 3-year agreement means Parkland will lease the institute’s facilities at Willard Airport for a $1 a year. 

Parkland will develop and provide a two-year avation-related Associate in Science degree program that continues pilot training activites of the Institute, scheduled to expire next summer. 

The plan also calls for both schools to set up a ‘Pathway Program' for students who want to transfer to the U of I to obtain 4-year, aviation-related degrees.

"The University of Illinois was eager to find ways to maintain flight training operations at Willard, and have mitigated many of the risks which couild have deterred us from this venture," said Parkland President Tom Ramage, in a statement.  "The agreement includes lease of facilites and aircraft as well as marketing support."

Earlier this week, Ramage said operation of the flight school through the community college would start with less students, but wants to ramp up enrollment over time.