Sharing the joy of flight – faculty perspective

Amy Birdsell (right) talks with (from left) Dr. Sandra Zerger, vice president of Academics; Sandy Toews, Aviation staff; and former President Laban Peachey during Homecoming 2011.

Homecoming this year was extremely special to me. I graduated from the Hesston College Aviation program 10 years ago, so not only did I reconnect with my former classmates, I also had the opportunity to help showcase the program that developed me as a person, an aviator and now an instructor.

Hesston College Aviation’s mission to advocate the joy of flight is evident in curriculum developments and continued dreams for enhancing all aspects of the aviation program. It is somewhat unusual for a private two-year college to have an aviation program at all, but ours includes an air traffic control track as well as flight. As credit to the high quality of our curriculum, instructors and campus community, Hesston’s Air Traffic Control program is the only FAA approved program in Kansas. The flight track is one of three in Kansas with FAA approval.

The Air Traffic Control program graduated its first class last spring, and 12 new students are enrolled this fall. The program attracts a diverse range of individuals – from the traditional student to those who already have valuable life experience.

A fleet of five aircraft helps our students obtain six licenses and ratings. To accomplish all of this in two years, students receive the support of caring instructors, which also positively impacts our retention and completion rates. The family atmosphere comes from our commitment to Christ. We want each student and instructor to view their work as a service to God and to others.

As I reflect on my dreams for this program, I envision steady growth in both flight and air traffic due to high quality personnel and a commitment to excellence. I also see greater partnerships in the Wichita aviation industry as we continue to build a great reputation with each student who walks through our doors. Another dream is to enhance the technology we offer students. Technology changes quickly, and we need to train our students how to be learners as they encounter new cockpits and radar screens.

I came to Hesston several years ago to teach because the community felt like home. I stay because I get to teach in an environment where God is first, students thrive and colleagues support each other like family. Thank you alumni and friends, aviators or otherwise, for your support of Hesston College and the aviation program. We appreciate each alumni update, donation received and prayer sent on behalf of this very special program.