Madisonville Community College officially announced Monday the beginnings of a new aviation program being housed at the Madisonville Regional Airport.

The program will give students the opportunity to become a professional pilot through fixed-wing or helicopter options.

“This is a historic day for Madisonville Community College and the regions we serve,” said MCC President Dr. Cindy Kelley. “This is the first flight training program in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. We have been able to make it to this point with strong community support, the work of the Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation and the leadership of the City of Madisonville.”

Madisonville Mayor Kevin Cotton said he was excited to see the growth and opportunities this program would bring to the area.

“This program is an excellent opportunity for Madisonville and one that sets us apart from other communities,” said Cotton.

Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation President Ray Hagerman said this program will create its own economic impact and will set “the stage for so much more aerospace activity throughout the community and the region.”

Commissioner Todd Bloch with the Kentucky Department of Aviation said aviation in Kentucky is becoming more and more popular.

“The COVID downturn is only going to stimulate this culture and business,” he said, quoting a Boeing report that stated the aviation industry and jobs for pilots are poised for a rebound in the coming months. “Aviation is going to come back stronger than it has ever been before and the need for pilots is going to be greater than it has ever been before.”

Rep. Melina Gibbons-Prunty, who represents the 15th District of Kentucky that includes part of Hopkins County and Muhlenberg County, also spoke at the announcement.

“It shows what you can do when you work together,” she said. “This is an opportunity to get training and education for a good paying job and you can get it at home.”

Madisonville Regional Airport Board Chairman Jimmy Riddle said he was excited for the program to come to the area saying it would put the area “on the map with the other aviation schools in Kentucky.”

“I’m a pilot and I know what it is like to make a first solo flight,” said Riddle. “I’ve seen kids get out of the airplane the first time, and seen their faces. It is exciting our college is going to be teaching kids to make a living doing something that they might really enjoy.”

Emily Herron, the manager of the Madisonville Regional Airport, said she remembers during her interview for the position the enthusiasm about the program just a year ago.

“One of the things I remember being discussed in my interview was the anticipation of this flight school,” she said. “Our city administrator, Robert Janes, and Jimmy Riddle, shared their enthusiasm for this program. I was encouraged by that. None of us could have predicted COVID and the airport industry specifically has taken a big hit. However, we will bounce back. As just a small regional airport, we have seen an increase in private and corporation aviation coming into our airport on a daily basis.”

Initially, helicopter flight training will be conducted at the airport and fixed-wing training will be offered at the Muhlenberg County Airport.

According to a news release from MCC, the college anticipates that both airports will be used to accommodate both programs in some capacity in the future.

As students advance through the program, they will be able to earn academic certificates and ratings from the Federal Aviation Administration for private pilot, instrument pilot, commercial pilot and as certified flight instructors for both fixed wing and helicopters.

To train students, the college leased two Schweizer S300 helicopters from the U.S. Aviation Training Solutions and a Cessna 172 airplane with a Garmin G1000 glass panel from Don Davis Aviation.

Students also have access to Redbird flight simulators, which are housed at both campus locations.

The simulators provide students opportunities to “safely learn in a simulated environment in which instructors can create hazardous weather conditions, severe turbulence, equipment malfunctions and other problems students must solve in the air.”

Applications are currently being accepted for the program.

For more information, contact Aviation Program Coordinator Mike Kehoe at 270-824-1806 or mike.kehoe@kctcs.edu.

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