Monday, June 16, 2014

Piper Archer Joins Fleet

By Melodie Roschman

Andrews University announces the addition of a new airplane to its Department of Aviation, bringing the school’s operational fleet to seven planes. The new plane, a single engine Archer TX, will be used by the department in its Aviation Flight program, which trains private commercial and airline transport pilots, and flight instructors as well as mission pilots.

A small crowd gathered on the tarmac on the morning of Wednesday, June 11, 2014 to watch the plane make its landing after a two-day flight from the Piper factory in Vero Beach, Florida. Despite a crosswind and rain earlier in the day, Duane Habenicht, chair of the Department of Aviation and the head pilot for the flight, brought the plane in for a smooth landing at 9:45 a.m.

As soon as the engines were stilled, the onlookers crowded around the new acquisition, eager to take in the plane’s 35.5-ft wingspan, run their hands along the blue-and-white paint job, and see the brand-new glass cockpit, the most exciting feature.

A glass cockpit is an instrument array that uses computer screens instead of traditional steam gauges—and this one, says Jared White, recruiting & marketing coordinator, means a crucial improvement to the flight training program. “It finally puts us at a competition standard with other aviation departments in the area. Having a brand new aircraft with an all-glass cockpit prepares us for the future, since that’s where aviation is going.”

The Piper Archer TX, a single-engine piston-powered trainer with four seats, is part of a move by the Department of Aviation to change to a Piper fleet from its aging Cessna fleet, which dates back to the 1970s. Andrews already owns a Piper Arrow and a twin-engine Piper Seminole, and another Piper Archer will arrive next month. “It’s on the assembly line now,” Jim Doran, chief flight instructor, says excitedly. “This is the first time we’ve had a new airplane since 1984. It’s a big deal; it means the University is invested in the program and they’re strongly supporting it.”

Pipers were chosen specifically, Habenicht explains, for financial reasons. Piper offered the University a package deal on the two new Archers, which were paid for through a combination of donations, selling older aircraft, and University support. Having a fleet consisting primarily of airplanes from one manufacturer will reduce overhead costs—and new equipment will save money in the long run. “It’s a nice, new airplane so things don’t have to be repaired as often,” says Darrel Penney, assistant professor of flight and co-pilot for the Archer’s first flight. “It’s a step into the future for Andrews.”

“I think it’s a great improvement to the fleet,” agrees William Stanley, chief dispatcher. “They’ve been needing this for a long time, so now the kids can get some really up-to-date training. The previous Cessna fleet, they’re good trainers, but they’re all over 30 years old….This is a Godsend to us.”



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