Marywood unveils $290k airplane for aviation program


May 7--PITTSTON TWP. -- Marywood University unveiled its newest classroom Friday at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport -- a $290,000 Cessna-172 SP airplane that will help students learn to use advanced electronic gauges found in commercial and military aircraft.

Coupled with February's certification by the Federal Aviation Administration of the university's aviation program, the purchase shows that Marywood is planning to make a long-term commitment to keeping its burgeoning program in the sky, said Mark George, the program's director.

Eight students will graduate from the Marywood aviation program on Sunday and another 15 have been accepted into the program for this fall, Mr. George said. He said they anticipate a 30 percent annual increase in the program in the near future.

"Marywood is always looking for unmet needs we can fulfill. This is an area where we can do that," said Sister Anne Munley, I.H.M., Ph.D., president of the university. "We're very proud of the students and the program."

The aviation program, which began in 2003, will continue to lease four airplanes, but the small Cessna is the first plane Marywood will own. What makes the plane unique is its Garmin-1000 avionics package, referred to as a "glass cockpit," an electronic instrument display. Half of the old-style circular "steam gauges" have been replaced by a screen showing compass heading, altitude and other information, as well as a separate GPS screen to monitor the plane's position.

Student Brian Johnson, who graduates Sunday, said the glass cockpit is much more pilot-friendly and often found in commercial airplanes.

"They are much less complicated and improve safety. For instance, if there's a problem and you need to find an airport, the GPS will show you the closest airports," Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. George said the glass cockpit also will be useful for students who want to pursue a military career.

While typically the military has been the flight school for pilots, Mr. George said that trend changed more than a decade ago as colleges became more likely training grounds.

If the program grows as it has been projected to do, Mr. George said Marywood has plans to purchase a second plane, possibly with a Synthetic Vision Systems, which is a more advanced system.

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