The Delaware Higher Education Economic Development Fund has announced a $3.4 million grant to Delaware State University to expand its aviation program, the only one of its kind among Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“This is an extraordinary vote of confidence in the quality and significance of our program and in its importance to Delaware and to the aviation industry nationwide,” University President Wilma Mishoe said. “This grant allows to move forward with plans to first replace our current aircraft fleet, and then double it over the next decade.” She noted that Delaware State’s Aviation Program not only boasts 100 percent career placement of pilot graduates within a year of graduation but is also “the largest producer of pilots and aviation professionals of color in the country.”
Representative Debra Heffernan, the co-chair of the fund and the Bond Bill Committee, said, “We’re proud to support the university in the continued improvement of its Aviation Program.” She explained that during the application and evaluation process, “We were very impressed by the quality of the University’s program and its graduates, making this a smart investment for Delaware.”
DSU has placed an initial order for 10 Vulcanair V1.0 FAA-certified single-engine aircraft from Ameravia Inc. (Vulcanair Aircraft distributor for the U.S.). The first new aircraft will arrive in April. Ameravia will also be the University’s source for additional aircraft and material for maintenance support.
The order had been announced last year.
“Our proposal also contributes to building a broader, better economic vitality in Greater Kent County,” said Dr. Tony Allen, Provost and Executive Vice President of the University. “Growing our Aviation Program requires increases aircraft service and significant enlargement of our hangar space at the Delaware Air Park in Cheswold. Equally important is the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with the local aviation industry, Dover Air Force Base, and the Delaware River and Bay Authority.”
Between construction and new positions for mechanics, flight instructors and support staff, the university anticipates the creation of hundreds of new jobs in the Greater Kent County area over the next few years.
Delaware State University’s Aviation Program has its roots in the federal initiative that created the famous “Tuskegee Airmen” in 1939-1940. “That’s why we paint the tails of our aircraft ‘Tuskegee Red,’” said Lt. Col. (Ret.) Michael Hales, the program’s director. Its modern incarnation traces back to a 1987 revitalization under its founding director, the late Dr. Daniel Coons.
“This unique program separates Delaware State University from most other institutions of higher education nationwide,” said Senator Dave Sokola, who co-chairs the Bond Bill Committee that oversees the fund. He pointed out that the program is one of the least expensive in the nation, and a major provider of highly qualified “pilots, air traffic controllers, and aviation administrators” making it a premier source of minority aviation professionals for regional and national airlines.