Pilots are in high demand. From flight instructors, to corporate, military and airline pilots, the aviation industry is feeling the effects of attrition as professional pilots are beginning to retire. A pilot shortage is affecting the industry at every level as the need for expanded flights and airline routes continues to grow. On one hand the shortage is creating a crisis, but on the other hand, it has created career opportunities for prospective pilots and aviation professionals. At the southern tip of Illinois, 60 nautical miles southeast of St. Louis as the crow flies, our friends at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIU) are doing their part in training the next generation of pilots.
History of Excellence
Southern Illinois University’s Aviation Program opened in 1960, and the university has been offering the Aviation Flight degree since 1984. “Our graduates are everywhere in the industry—airline captains, airport managers, professors of aviation, and the armed forces,” said Kenneth Bro, Chief Flight Instructor and Program Coordinator, Aviation Management and Flight.
But before SIU students move on to a variety of aviation careers, they are part of a championship collegiate program. The university fields an aviation team—the Flying Salukis—that competes in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association championships. This competition includes aviation events ranging from navigation to flight performance. For the past eight years, the Flying Salukis have placed first in regional competitions and hold nine national titles overall.
Flight Training and Fleet
The university is home to over 170 flight students annually, and averages around 13,000 flight hours per year. The fleet that supports this many flight operations includes:
- Seven Cessna 152s
- 12 Cessna 172s
- Three Cessna 310s
- Three Piper Arrows
- One Cessna 340
- One Cessna 421 Golden Eagle
- Three Frasca Cessna 172 G1000 Simulators
These aircraft feature a wide range of Garmin avionics from the GTN 650/750 series navigators and G500 TXi touchscreen flight displays, to the G1000 Integrated Flight Deck. What’s the advantage of similar avionics within the fleet?
“We believe it is important to have standardized avionics packages and continuity so that students can quickly adapt between airframes,” Bro said. “This allows our curriculum to flow neatly from private to commercial.”
The Garmin Flight Stream 510 is also in two of SIU’s higher-performance aircraft, the Cessna 340 and Cessna 421, allowing wireless database updating, flight plan transfers and more. By flying these aircraft, Bro added, “The students gain experience in a corporate environment, moving campus executives about the country, and the Flight Stream integrates neatly into this fast-paced environment.”
Keeping them Flying
Optimizing an aircraft’s service time is paramount for any fleet operator, and keeping aircraft running safely and efficiently is always top-of-mind. SIU’s G1000-equipped aircraft benefit from advanced data-logging capabilities that can aid the flight department in keeping their aircraft airworthy.
“This is actually one of my favorite aspects of the advanced flight deck as Chief. We have 100GB of data spanning seven years and nearly 20,000 hours. This data is used in both research and safety monitoring,” Bro said. “It’s also been used in predictive analytic research—we are studying the ability to predict powerplant problems and pilot behavior. This field of research is quiet fascinating and would not be possible without the data logging.”
Operators can also take advantage of engine data logging with Garmin Flight Stream 510 and G500 TXi/G600 TXi flight displays that are capable of displaying engine information. Via the Connext ecosystem, aircraft engine data can be wirelessly downloaded to the Garmin Pilot app and flyGarmin website automatically, providing additional insights to pilots and mechanics.
The Next Generation of Pilots
What does this mean for our next generation of airline/military/corporate pilots and aviation professionals attending SIU?
“Our students are well prepared for entry level jobs due to their experience with an array of Garmin products. With the advanced avionics found in the G500 TXi and G1000, our students are also prepared to work in the flight decks of modern airliners,” Bro said.
Ken Bro is the Chief Flight instructor and Program Coordinator for Aviation Management and Flight at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He has been with the university for six years, and Chief Flight Instructor since May, 2018.
For more information about the SIU Carbondale Flight Department, visit https://aviation.siu.edu/. To learn more about our latest avionics solutions, visit garmin.com/aviation.