Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s leading aviation and aerospace institution, plans to replace many of its existing aircraft with at least 60 new Cessna Skyhawks from Textron Aviation Inc., a Textron Inc. company, as well as four new Diamond DA42-VI aircraft from Diamond Aircraft Industries, school leadership said this week.
The fleet replenishment, confirmed at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., reflects Embry-Riddle’s continuous effort to advance aviation education in service to students by ensuring that the school’s fleet is updated on a regular basis. Last year the university’s planes experienced a string of incidents, one of them fatal to a student and an examiner.
“In keeping with Embry-Riddle’s rigorous focus on aviation safety, new aircraft for our fleet were selected following an exhaustive evaluation by a team of experts on both our Prescott, Ariz., and Daytona Beach campuses,” said Dr. P. Barry Butler, president of Embry-Riddle. “We are honored to extend our successful, long-term relationships with Textron Aviation and Diamond Aircraft Industries to replenish the Embry-Riddle fleet, to provide our students with a highly effective and reliable training platform that will serve them well.”
Embry-Riddle’s fleet, encompassing both of the school’s residential campuses, currently includes more than 100 aircraft, making the school’s flight-training operation the size of a small regional airline. In Daytona Beach and Prescott, flight students complete more than 120,000 flight hours per year.
“A global pilot shortage and the promise of high-paying careers have resulted in high demand for our flight-training programs,” Butler said. In Daytona Beach and Prescott combined, total enrollment in the university’s residential Aeronautical Science programs leading to a bachelor’s degree for professional pilots has increased about 25 percent over the past three years, with nearly 2,000 students enrolled as of fall 2018. Demand for the fall 2019 semester is expected to reach more than 2,300 students.
In response to this high demand, Embry-Riddle is gearing up for a major replenishment and likely expansion of its fleet, based on enrollment. Between now and September 2022, Embry-Riddle will purchase at least 60 new Skyhawk aircraft. After that, the university has the option to purchase another 10 Skyhawks per year, through 2030, based on demand for the nation’s No. 1 aviation-training program. Four new Diamond DA42-VI aircraft are also being purchased for the Prescott Campus, along with two new industry-leading Frasca flight simulators.
All of the new aircraft were selected for their reliability and performance, particularly at high altitudes — an important attribute for flight-training in Prescott.
“A large committee of experts — including students, flight instructors, faculty, aviation maintenance professionals and business representatives — carefully assessed a variety of aircraft attributes before identifying the Skyhawks as the best choice for Embry-Riddle,” said Dr. Kenneth Byrnes, chair of the Daytona Beach Flight Department. “The group ultimately concluded that these aircraft offer a safe, dependable design, they are easy to maintain, and they have an excellent operational safety record.”
A global pilot shortage and the promise of high-paying careers have resulted in high demand for Embry-Riddle’s flight-training programs. Professor Parker Northrup, Flight Department chair on the Prescott Campus, reported that his program is gearing up to serve approximately 600 students this fall. The Daytona Beach Campus Aeronautical Science program expects to serve roughly 1,700 students in September, Byrnes said.
“The decision to acquire the new Skyhawks resulted from a deliberate and inclusive review process,” Northrup said. “Embry-Riddle chose this particular aircraft because of our zero-defect aircraft flight policy. The maintenance record of the Skyhawk is superb, and these aircraft have a track record of reliable service in a busy flight-training environment.”
The Diamond DA42-VI aircraft offer superior high-altitude performance and are fully compliant with Federal Aviation Administration ADS-B (navigational) requirements, Northrup added. Finally, he said, the planes offer “full authority digital engine control,” known as FADEC, and therefore will prepare Embry-Riddle students to fly with the most up-to-date technology.
“Diamond Aircraft is honored to have Embry-Riddle select the Diamond DA42-VI for their Prescott and Daytona campuses,” said Scott McFadzean, chief executive officer of Diamond Aircraft Industries Inc. “Embry-Riddle has been at the leading edge of aeronautical training for decades, and Diamond represents the leading edge of general aviation aircraft, with an all-composite design, proprietary jet fuel piston engines and Garmin G1000 NXi glass cockpits, so the partnership is a natural fit for both organizations.”
Embry-Riddle and Textron Aviation affirmed their business relationship at EAA AirVenture. Embry-Riddle President P. Barry Butler was joined by Textron Aviation President & CEO Ron Draper. Also on hand were the deans of Embry-Riddle’s Colleges of Aviation in Prescott and Daytona Beach, Drs. Timothy Holt and Alan Stolzer; Flight Department Chairs Parker Northrup and Kenneth Byrnes; and Textron Aviation’s Senior Vice President of Sales, Rob Scholl, and Vice President of Piston Sales, Chris Crow.