Aviation program no longer under radar with awards

A little-known Rangely aviation school is flying high after receiving several top awards at a national competition.

Colorado Northwestern Community College was named the top two-year school for aviation training based on results of its Aero Club Flight Team at a competition at Ohio State University.

The school also finished first in the College Aviation Progress Award category, which measures year-to-year improvement, at the National Intercollegiate Flight Association Safety and Flight Evaluation 2011 competition.

And Torbyn Cabral and Jennessee Forster teamed up to win the message drop competition, in which they sought to accurately drop a block of balsa wood to mimic the delivery of a message to someone on the ground.

Forster also took third in the competition for the Women’s Achievement Award. Among other high finishes for the college, Tylor Yates and Marcus Kindall won top-10 awards in other categories and James Segrest won an Outstanding Team Member Award. Yates, Kindall and the overall team also won other top-25 awards.

Thanks to the heady honors, Colorado Northwestern’s aviation technology program no longer is flying as far under the radar.

Ellis Johnson, chief flight instructor and interim program director, said it’s welcome publicity. After all, the program has been around since the early 1960s, and has trained pilots who now fly all around the country and even the world.

“And yet nobody seems to know we’re up here,” he said.

Yates said the program isn’t even that well-known at the college because it’s based at the Rangely Airport (which the college manages for Rio Blanco County).

“It’s good to kind of help get the name of the school out there,” he said.

Yates graduated from the program last year and now helps out as an instructor, but he took some classes at the school to be able to compete on the flight team again.

He hopes to become an airline pilot after pursuing a bachelor’s degree in aviation management.

Johnson said graduates of Colorado Northwestern’s program may immediately become pilots at regional airlines or for charter services, but most typically go on to get a four-year degree elsewhere in fields such as business or aviation management. Some graduates have gone on to fly for Frontier, United and other major airlines, or for the military.

Depending on fuel prices, Colorado Northwestern’s program can cost about $80,000, compared to $100,000 to $200,000 for some similar programs, Johnson said.

Said Yates, who’s from the Greeley area, “I visited the bigger schools, and I just liked the personal nature here.”


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