CWU unveils new training aircraft

Members of the community along with staff, faculty and students from Central Washington University gather in an aircraft hanger at Bowers Field in Ellensburg for a reception introducing five new training aircraft recently purchased for the CWU Aviation program, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018.

Central Washington University’s aviation program returned student training flights to Bowers Field in Ellensburg on Tuesday after a temporary move to Yakima.

CWU’s planes were relocated to Yakima Air Terminal’s McAllister Field on June 29 after damage that appeared to be a bullet fragment was found in an aircraft propeller during a preflight check.

A scraping of the damaged surface was sent to the Washington State Patrol crime lab by the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office to determine the object that hit the propeller.

“The (Federal Aviation Administration) is awaiting a finding from the county office before proceeding, should that action be necessary,” said CWU Vice President for Public Affairs Kremiere Jackson. The investigation is ongoing, she said, adding that she had no further details.

She said student safety is secure and that CWU President James Gaudino made the decision Tuesday to return flight training to Ellensburg.

During the temporary move, CWU’s five Piper Archer aircraft were stationed at McAllister Field, Yakima Air Terminal Director Rob Peterson said. Students regularly fly into the Yakima airport for navigation and air control training, but airplanes are not normally stationed at the Yakima airport, said Peterson. The temporary relocation meant an increase of traffic in and out of the airport, he added, although he did not know the number of flights the aviation program had been conducting.

Jackson estimated that fewer than 100 takeoffs and landings took place during the temporary move. Roughly 170 students are doing flight training this summer, including students who graduated in the spring who are finishing final requirements, she added.

CWU’s aviation program is the only fully accredited public university aviation program in the Pacific Northwest. Central has previously considered the possibility of moving some flight operations to Yakima.

Reach Janelle Retka at jretka@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @janelleretka