Aviation program adds new aircraft to its fleet

photo - President Joseph A. Manickam hands the new archer airplane keys to Mike Baker, director of the School of Aviation, accompanied by Caleb Loss, vice president of finance, and a representative of Tomahawk Aero Services.

Just in time for the start of the new academic year, Hesston College School of Aviation added another aircraft to its fleet.

The Piper PA-28-181 Archer II becomes the fourth in the program’s fleet and satisfies the program’s current demands while allowing consideration for future student enrollment expansion, according to Mike Baker, director of Hesston College School of Aviation.

“We purchased this plane so we can expand our scheduling options for our students,” says Baker. “Commonality is important when you are training future pilots. Everything within the aircraft we’ve purchased is almost identical to what we currently operate, so it allows for flexibility in scheduling while providing the students with a common platform.”

The plane was acquired through Tomahawk Aero Services, LLC, an aircraft broker who performed a national search for about two years to find an aircraft that best fit the program’s needs and criteria. It arrived turnkey – both resembling and operating like the rest of the fleet – with no need for avionics modifications or maintenance. This provides the college a significant savings in both dollars and aircraft downtime.

“Over the past five years, we’ve been working at keeping a consistent fleet that is safe and of high quality,” adds Hesston College President Dr. Joseph A. Manickam. “I appreciate Mike’s [Baker] attention to detail when meeting the criteria for the fleet and not compromising on those elements.”

The new Hesston College aviation aircraft was purchased in part through a gift from the Laban and Helen Peachey Endowment Fund. Laban Peachey served as president of Hesston College from 1968 to 1980 and was instrumental in launching the aviation program in 1970. Peachey passed away in April 2021, at which time the endowment fund for the aviation program was established in Laban and Helen Peachey’s name. Other donor gifts also contributed to the purchase of the new Archer.

“This plane met all the criteria we established when we began the search for an aircraft – the avionics platform, time on the airframe and time on the engine,” explains Baker. “With the maintenance that we provide our aircraft, this plane has the ability to provide flight training for students for many years to come.”

Hesston College aviation program offers both a four-year Bachelor of Science degree with a major in aviation-professional pilot and a two-year associate degree in aviation-professional pilot. The program also operates a two-year associate degree for air traffic control. Hesston College aviation is one of five FAA-approved flight schools in the state of Kansas and the only FAA-approved Collegiate Training Initiative program for air traffic control in the state.

“The purchase of this aircraft assures students that we are dedicated to managing their education and time effectively,” Baker says. “It displays that the college is continually investing in a program that is a staple and a distinctive for the institution.”