CHARLESTON — It was wet and foggy, but pilot and Marshall University board member Bill Noe safely landed the new Cirrus Aircraft on Thursday afternoon at Yeager Airport in Charleston, the first of two planes for the university’s new flight school.
“If only I had a plane like this to train when I was starting to fly,” Noe said after the kelly green-emblazoned plane had settled into its temporary hangar while the new Bill Noe Flight School hangar is built across the tarmac. Noe picked the plane up in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Thursday morning and flew the craft to its new home.
There was a round of applause as Noe popped out of the cockpit.
The state-of-the-art Cirrus SR20 plane is ideal for student training, particularly for its parachute safety feature, which slowly brings the plane straight to the ground upon deployment.
Bryan Branham, chief flight instructor for the Flight School, said the students who train on these planes will be prepared to fly any aircraft — from commercial to military — upon graduation.
“There’s two 10-inch displays, not unlike two iPads (in the cockpit),” Branham said. “We are in the future inside this cockpit. Not every school is using planes like these … This is what you are going to start seeing with newer aircraft. So you are seeing not unlike what you have in the airline industry at the training level.”
Branham started his military flying career in the U.S. Army, where he flew both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. His experience in aviation includes serving as an aviation training department chairman/professor, chief instructor and chief research pilot. He was most recently a professor at Ohio University.
Under the direction of Branham, the Flight School anticipates 25 students in the first year. The new hangar and facilities at Yeager are anticipated to be finished by summer of 2021, with the first class starting that fall.
The Board of Governors approved the university to purchase two Cirrus aircraft. The second is expected to arrive around the new year, Branham said. The crafts are approximately $500,000 each.
The Flight School will offer a Commercial Pilot: Fixed-Wing Bachelor of Science degree and an Aviation Maintenance, A.A.S., which will be a joint degree from Marshall and Mountwest Community and Technical College. The maintenance program is based at Huntington Tri-State Airport.
Noe said graduates of the school will be sent into the world at the perfect time.
“The students that come out of this will be so far ahead of your average pilot,” Noe said. “They will be perfectly suited to advance to the next level … We are coming into this at the right time. Right now with the economy and the kind of lull that’s there, especially in aviation, as our students graduate, they will be hitting it at the right time to catch a wave that’s going to create an enormous amount of hiring in the aviation industry, especially pilots, but also maintenance.”
To request information about the new degree program, visit marshall.edu/aviation.