South Dakota State University is one of five aviation programs participating in the 2022 Top Hawk program.
Top Hawk is a partnership between Textron Aviation and selected aviation schools to provide students with access to a Cessna Skyhawk, the world’s most popular trainer.
This week, SDSU received a new, custom-branded Skyhawk to promote aviation at air shows, aviation contests and recruiting events. Top Hawk aircraft also allow schools to showcase their connection to Textron Aviation’s reputable internship program and support discovery flights and learn-to-fly programs.
Cody Christensen ’05/M.Ed. ’06, who started leading SDSU’s program in 2014, said graduates have worked as SDSU flight instructors for one year to 18 months before being hired by regional airlines. SDSU has 29 flight instructors for its students.
“When we saw the growth potential that was possible in the industry, we started training more flight instructors to meet the demand. Adding this Skyhawk allows us to do that and hopefully attract more students,” Christensen said. “We want to make sure we’re providing the safest, best-prepared students we can while still being as cost-effective as possible with the student dollars.
“We still want to be a smaller program and one that knows our students as individuals, one that takes care of our students and their career aspirations,” he said. “If students want to work at Delta or United, they will need a four-year-degree. We’re accredited and a one-stop shop to go to the regional airlines, which lead into the major airlines.”
SDSU’s FAA Part 141 program has grown to 185 students and 17 aircraft, which includes 11 Cessna 172s. The aviation education specialization is accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International.
Students completing the aviation education bachelor’s degree are eligible to apply for a restricted privileges airline transport pilot (R-ATP) at graduation. The SDSU aviation program operates from Brookings Regional Airport, which offers students the opportunity to fly over South Dakota and neighboring states.
Also receiving a Skyhawk in 2022 are Ocean Aviation, Berlin, Maryland; Illinois Aviation Academy, West Chicago, Illinois; Berichi Aviation, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Queen City Flying Service, Cincinnati.
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