Ohio University’s aviation department received a new plane on March 1 after getting an award to promote general aviation.

The department will have the plane for nine months. After that period ends, the university will have the option to buy the plane. The plane could cost more than $400,000 if purchased new. However, the plane that OU will receive will have about 300 flight hours on it after those nine months, so it could cost less, Derek McVicar, assistant chief flight instructor, said.

Textron Aviation awarded four universities with the Top Hawk award, according to a news release. Each university is given a 2019 Cessna Skyhawk, which is a four-person training airplane.

The biggest difference between this plane and the planes that the department already has is that it has a glass cockpit, which is a screen of instrument panels rather than gauges, Owens said. The screen has GPS, which allows pilots to be more aware.

It hasn’t been decided what classes the plane will be used. However, McVicar said he thinks it would be useful for senior-level classes, which are focused on instrument panels. Sometimes students are overwhelmed with the technology, so it is better for younger students to be in smaller, older planes, McVicar said.

The plane will likely be flown fewer than 400 hours in nine months and will receive mandatory inspections every 100 hours.

Steve Owens, aviation business administrator, said he thinks OU won the award because the aviation department supports charitable events and is a combination of the OU brand and the Textron Aviation brand. Another reason was because OU has its own Federal Aviation Administration approved maintenance.

Fifty-five freshman students were studying aviation in Fall Semester 2018. Before then, the largest class was 26 students, Owens, said. The plane would help with training because there are so many students and a limited number of planes and flight instructors.

OU now has 17 planes, including the new plane. Other than that plane, the newest models in the fleet are from 2005, Owens said. The avionics department even has a plane from 1943 that is used sometimes.

McVicar and an aviation student flew the plane from Wichita to Athens on March 1. The flight took about seven hours flying at about 138 mph and stopping twice on the way.

To fly for a commercial airline, pilots are required to have 1,000 flight hours, Owens said. Students only get about 250 to 300 hours during their four years, so the department hires graduated students to instruct new students to ensure students are able to get the require flight hours.

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