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Maine's only college flight school gets new plane

The University of Maine at Augusta unveiled its nearly $500,000 training plane on Wednesday.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — The University of Maine at Augusta is the only college institution in the state that offers aviation degrees, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

On Wednesday, school leadership unveiled a brand new tool for the program.

The school will begin training students in a nearly $500,000 Cirrus S-R 20 four-seat plane at its facility on the old naval air base in Brunswick. 

Program Director Greg Jolda also has flight simulators at his disposal, but he says this plane is a perfect addition. It was once beyond comprehension that they would have it.

"It’s a big ask to do this," he admitted. "But with the pilot shortage and the need for pilots, we think this is the right aircraft. United Airlines [is] starting [its] own flight school —they bought 20 of these. The air force uses these."

School leadership started the aviation program in 2013, which includes drone courses. The school has a partnership with the private company Maine Instrument Flight, which Jolda says was so impressed with UMA's new plane,  that its CEO has ordered four planes of its own. The planes are expected to arrive within two years and be available to UMA students.

The program is not cheap. Jolda said UMA’s bachelor of science in aviation program could cost a student around $120,000. 

But Brenda McAleer, the school's dean of professional studies, says those students graduate with four coveted FAA certifications plus the bachelor’s degree, which means fewer required flight hours are needed before they can fly professionally.

The demand for professional pilots is so high right now, McAleer says her students are being offered jobs now for when they eventually rack up enough flight hours later on. 

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