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Thursday, September 2, 2004
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Ohio University pursues options for replacing grounded flight training aircraft

ATHENS, Ohio (Sept. 2, 2004) -- Ohio University is replacing seven aircraft that were used by students in the Department of Aviation's flight-training program and another utilized by Community Aviation with alternate aircraft. Community Aviation provides flight instruction to the general public.

In late July, the university grounded all eight Cessna 172 flight training aircraft after they experienced intermittent episodes of engine roughness. The problem has been confined to fuel-injected aircraft.

The intermediate step includes leasing five Cessna 172s with carburetors from Christiansen Aviation in Tulsa, Okla., and two other similar models to replace the fuel-injected (non-carburetor) models that have been grounded. They will join two Cessna 152s and two other carbureted Cessna 172s to form the primary flight training fleet.

The goal is to have a full fleet of aircraft in place so that students will have no interruption in training when the 2004-05 academic year begins Sept. 7.

As a permanent solution, the university is finalizing the trade-in of the seven grounded aircraft for seven new Piper Warrior III aircraft, with delivery planned for April and May of 2005. The Piper Warriors have carbureted engines. A 1995 Piper Archer is replacing the Community Aviation aircraft.

"Replacing the current aircraft with more reliable planes is the only reasonable course of action to take," Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin said. "It continues to be a matter of putting the safety of our students first. Operating a flight-training program is not inexpensive, and it is imperative we appropriately support this academic program."

The Piper Warriors, which cost approximately $206,000 each, will be equipped with Avidyne Entegra Integrated Flight Deck, a highly advanced avionics system.

"These aircraft offer our students the opportunity to train with the latest technology and to become proficient with the same systems they'll be using during their careers, making them extremely valuable as training aircraft," Irwin said. "Because this is the technology of the future, it makes sense, from both a teaching and economical standpoint, to acquire aircraft with this advanced avionics system."

Department of Aviation Chair Juan Merkt said, "This purchase makes Ohio University a front-runner in one of the most significant revolutions in aviation training. For the first time, computerized flight decks with multi-function displays, moving maps and integrated flight instruments is available in basic trainers. We will be among the first universities to provide all basic flight training in airplanes equipped with this state-of-the-art technology."

The purchase price for the Piper Warriors is $1,420,000, and the university is receiving $420,000 for the old aircraft, with $110,000 of the trade-in satisfying old debt.

The purchase will be funded by a loan -- first as a short-term internal loan from the university, then as a permanent 15-year loan. Student course fees for flight-training students will need to be increased by 6-8 percent beginning winter quarter.

"Other universities that have been using Piper aircraft for more than 15 years report no design or maintenance problems with these aircraft. Further, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation gives this type of aircraft an excellent safety rating," Vice President for Research Jack Bantle said.

The Ohio University regional Airport and the university's Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology grounded the seven Cessna 172 aircraft that were experiencing intermittent reduction of 300-400 RPM, lasting between one to 10 seconds. Although each aircraft passed safety inspections and had been certified for flight operations as prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration, the planes were grounded when the reason for the problem could not be isolated.

The Community Aviation aircraft will cost $142,000, and this purchase will be supported by the eventual sale of the two other Community Aviation aircraft.

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Media Contact: Dean of the Russ College of Engineering Dennis Irwin, (740) 593-1479, or Associate Vice President of Communications and Marketing Hub Burton, (740) 593-2563

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