Aviation program doubles in second year, gains media attention

In just its second year, Eastern Mennonite University at Lancaster’s aviation program has drawn attention from NBC affiliate WGAL8, which serves the Susquehanna Valley region of Pennsylvania.

Five students are entering their sophomore year and the incoming class, beginning their studies this week, is double that number.

The combination of a bachelor’s degree in leadership and organization management and flight certifications allows expanded education funding options, mentorship and career guidance – and an expedited pathway to Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certification.

Not to mention unique field trips, like the August jaunt, by airplane of course, from KLNS to KIAD to visit the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at the National Air and Space Museum. [See a clip of the planes departing on EMU Lancaster’s Facebook page.]

The program’s growth is not surprising to EMU at Lancaster’s provost, Mary Jensen. “We’re helping to meet a long-term regional and national demand for trained and qualified pilots,” she said.

The WGAL8 spot features now-sophomores Ivy Yanek and Ethan Sommers, as well as Matt Kauffman, owner of Aero-Tech Services. The company, based at the Lancaster airport, partners with EMU to provide flight training and certifications.

With qualified pilots in high demand, graduates of the program will help to fill an industry gap. For the next 20 years, a new commercial airline pilot needs to be trained every 15 minutes, CNN reported in July 2017. One such career opportunity is provided by Republic Airline’s career pipeline interview program, which guarantees an interview for qualified EMU students.

With new student growth and inquiries in abundance, EMU at Lancaster has also hired a new director of aviation. 

Veteran John Sibole recently retired as a safety inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration. Raised in a small town near Philadelphia, Sibole began flying at 16 at West Chester Airport, where he worked as a “lineboy” to earn money for flight lessons. He graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in mechanical engineering and was commissioned as a second lieutenant through Air Force ROTC. He then served as a pilot in the Air Force, Pennsylvania Air National Guard and Army National Guard. 

Sibole’s 30-year career with US Airways included duty as a Boeing 737 instructor and a Boeing 767 trans-Atlantic Captain. During this time he also founded a flight school that trained airplane and helicopter pilots. He is now retiring a second time—as a safety inspector in the Federal Aviation Administration—in order to serve in the aviation program at Eastern Mennonite University.

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