Jeremy Hahn spoke at last night’s session during the open forum time. Here’s a transcript of Mr. Hahn’s statement:

Hahn: I am a student at St. Cloud State. I’m the vice president of the St. Cloud State Aero Club and I’m an aviation student. I would like to speak on behalf of the Aviation Department and try and clarify some things that have been overlooked for the closure of the department.

First, I’d like to speak on the department. The aviation department is one of two 4-year bachelor programs in the state and is the only one accredited by the ABBI and with Congress trying to institute a 1,500 hour rule for pilot training, you need 1,500 hours to qualify for commercial airlines employment. The ABBI accreditation allows for students graduating from the program to be exempt from that. Closing the program would hurt central Minnesota’s and Minnesota’s ability to answer the demand for airline pilots in the industry.

As for enrollment at the Aviation Department, the Aviation industry parallels the economy. With the downfall of the economy, in fact the Congress raised the retirement age for pilots from 60 to 65. That was in December, 2007. There will be a demand increase in 2012 for pilots and without the St. Cloud State program, we will not be able to provide pilots for the industry.

As I spoke, I am a member of the Aero Club and it has been presented that the Aviation Department cannot afford to upgrade and operate a fleet of aircraft. The Aero Club is a nonprofit, incorporated association that owns its own aircraft and we receive no funding from the University and we have a contract with Wright Arrow, which is the flight training facility at the Airport. They also own their own aircraft and students from St. Cloud University do their training in these aircraft, which are not owned by the Aviation Department.

Therefore, no liability for upgrading the fleet is assumed by the department. It is for the Aero Club and Right Arrow to provide. ABBI does not require aircraft to have new avionics packages. However, the department did acquire this past year new equipment that will provide updated training for graduates.

After Hahn spoke, a Japanese aviation student spoke. I won’t attempt to spell his name because I’m certain I’m butcher it. The first point he made after saying he’s lived in St. Cloud the past 4 years is because St. Cloud State’s Aviation program is very affordable. He expressed concern “not only about the program and the economy but also the effect it will have on diversity.” He said that “hopefully, in the future, this city will be more global.”

I found these students’ arguments to be compelling. The fact that the Arrow Club and Wright Arrow maintain their own fleet of aircraft is compelling by itself. The federal government’s implementation of regulations that hamper pilot training right just prior to a foreseeable pilot shortage is bad policy. Keeping St. Cloud State’s Aviation Department open would supply pilots quickly at a time when there’s a shortage.

The fact that St. Cloud State’s Aviation Department’s prices are more affordable than others tells me that this is a department that’s being run right.

After these students’ presentations, Mayor Kleis spoke of the Aviation Department’s importance, saying that it’s an issue of economic development and important to St. Cloud’s economic viability.

Councilman Jeff Johnson, a faculty member of the Aviation Department, spoke briefly about Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s and Congressman Chip Cravaack’s interest in this issue, both from a homeland security issue and from the standpoint of training young people to meet the expected pilot shortage.

Later, upon Mayor Dave Kleis’s recommendation, the city council voted on a resolution that a formal letter be sent to the St. Cloud State administration stating their support for keeping the Aviation Department open as well as expressing the economic importance of the St. Cloud Airport to St. Cloud’s economy.

The motion was made by Councilman Gerger and seconded by Councilman Hontos. Councilman Johnson recused himself from the vote, stating conflict-of-interest issues. The resolution passed with unanimous support save for Councilman Johnson’s abstention.

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5 Responses to “City Council Open Session”

  • IndyJones says:

    That should be the Aero Club, not the arrow club. I was a member of the Aero club at SCSC back in the 69-70 era. My brother was president of the Aero club at that time. I recently retired from Federal Express after over 20 years in aircraft maintenance. Aviation is one of the few good paying jobs left in this country and it would be a shame to fail to train the next generation to replace us. It can be a boom and bust occupation, however I was lucky to work for the same company all those years.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Thanks for the correction. I’ll change it immediately.

    UPDATE: Changed.

  • Rex Newman says:

    Gary, you just don’t get it: the future is trains!

  • Gary Gross says:

    OMG!!! Thanks for that slap upside the head…My brainwash pills must’ve worn off…I’m back on my meds now…it won’t happen again.

  • Logan says:

    Just to let everyone know, I’m one of the students that spoke at city council and the student leader in this “movement” to save the SCSU aviation program. I would love to get the support from the community. If you’re interested send me an email, so I can add you to the list serve. The university officials are watching our aviation list serves so I’m making my own…
    Vocu0901@stcloudstate.edu

    thanks!

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