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International students take to the skies

October 12, 2009

It’s a long way to go for pilot training, but 17 Japanese aviation students from J.F. Oberlin University in Tokyo are beginning a specialized aviation program at Arizona State University at the Polytechnic campus this year. 

The students are part of a new 1+2+1 academic partnership between Oberlin University and ASU to help meet the growing demand for well-educated and well-trained pilots in Japan.

“The students have completed the first year of an aviation program at Oberlin University and will be taking two years of our professional pilot program here at ASU,” said Dr. William McCurry, a professor in the Aeronautics Management Technology program at ASU who, along with Dr. Merrill Karp, was instrumental in establishing the agreement with Oberlin.

ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation has a world-class aviation program that currently attracts students from all over the country. This is the first such arrangement with an international university.

“One of the things that is very attractive to our students is the Airline Bridge Program, in which the pilot training part of the program is carried out in partnership with Mesa Pilot Development, a unit of Mesa Air Group, preparing them for careers in the airline industry,” said Jimmy Kimberly, aeronautics faculty member and the Oberlin student coordinator at ASU.

The Oberlin students’ curriculum is similar to the existing program between ASU and Mesa Pilot Development. However, the Japanese students’ course of study will fulfill both U.S. and Japanese flight training requirements. 

In preparation for the coursework, the students are enrolled in an intensive eight-week English language course. Following successful completion and passing the TOEFL English proficiency test, they will begin their fall courses on Oct. 12.

Aviation instructors with ASU and Mesa Pilot Development have also been preparing for the challenges of teaching a large group of international students. According to Kimberly, they participated in a cultural workshop on Sept. 21.

Students will finish their studies, having received FAA certification on private, commercial and multi-engine aircraft, as well as Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) certification for commercial and multi-engine aircraft. The students have already completed their written exams for JACB certification after a year of English and aeronautics courses at Oberlin. They will complete the flight tests at ASU.

The students from Oberlin will spend several hours using various flight simulators prior to making their first flights in mid to late October.

Despite the challenges of studying abroad, the students are enthusiastic. “Since I was a child, it has always been my dream to be a pilot,” said Mai Suzuki, the only female student of the group, who dates her love of flying back to family trips.

The students are enjoying the opportunity to broaden their cultural horizons as well. Tasuku Maki went tubing on the Salt River, an experience that he called “fantastic,” and he and others watched the Sun Devils beat Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 19.

What do they think of Arizona so far? The answer was unanimous: “Hot!”

Kari Stallcop, (480) 727-1173
Public Affairs at ASU Polytechnic campus