North Texas Daily

TWU program to join growing Denton aviation community

TWU program to join growing Denton aviation community

TWU program to join growing Denton aviation community
June 01
12:00 2023

Texas Woman’s University announced its intent on May 17 to create the first four-year university aviation program in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

The aviation program, which is set to begin enrolling students in the fall 2024 semester, is funded by a $15 million gift from the Houston J. and Florence A. Doswell Foundation. The first class will be around 25 students and the program will have two tracks — aviation management and professional pilot training.

“TWU has a long history with women in aviation,” said O. Finley Graves, Interim Executive for Academic Affairs and Provost at TWU. “We have archives of numerous women in aviation organizations, including the Wasps, the Whirly-Girls, women military aviators… [and the] Women in Aviation International.”

The $15 million gift from the Doswell Foundation is the largest TWU has ever received from a foundation. The Doswell Foundation previously worked with TWU in 2021, gifting $3 million to help construct TWU’s T. Boone Pickens Institute of Health Sciences-Dallas and donating another $3 million to TWU’s College of Nursing.

“The Doswell School of Aeronautical Sciences will address this issue of underrepresentation by establishing a new pathway for women to pursue careers in aviation,” said Stacie McDavid, the board chair of TWU’s Board of Regents, in a press release. “On behalf of myself, and the Texas Woman’s University System’s Board of Regents, we are deeply grateful for the Doswell Foundation’s generous gift to our institution.”

One of the program’s goals is to help diversify the aeronautical workforce. Based on enrollment figures from November 2021, 89 percent of TWU’s student population are women, and 67 percent of undergraduates are minorities. With women making up less than five percent of pilots in the United States, Graves believes that the aviation program fills a need in the industry.

“[The major airlines are] very interested in diversifying and growing the minority, including women,” Graves said. “We believe a couple of airlines are aware that we want to start this program [and] are interested in us for that reason.”

TWU’s aviation program will become the closest four-year aviation program to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which is the third busiest airport in the world in terms of aircraft movements, according to Airports Council International . Prior to the creation of the program, the closest four-year aviation programs to the DFW Airport were Baylor University’s Institute for Air Science and LeTourneau University’s College of Aviation and Aeronautical Science.

TWU’s aviation program will join Denton’s growing community of aeronautical services, which includes the Denton Enterprise Airport and the US Aviation Academy’s Denton Flight School.

Denton Enterprise Airport is the busiest general aviation airport in the state of Texas and has around 80 tenants, according to Airport Director Scott Gray. Gray said the airport is waiting for TWU’s Request for Proposal to be officially filed but plans “to have conversations” about possible collaboration once that process is completed.

“Having the program in Denton itself — we’re pleased we can provide the airport for them to utilize and do their training here,” Gray said. “For students, whether they’re in high school or going through college, having it in the metroplex, I think, is beneficial to all those pursuing that degree program.”

The aviation industry is currently experiencing a shortage of pilots. Based on current trajectory models, there will be a shortage of around 60,000 pilots globally by the end of the decade. Gray said having a university aviation program in the metroplex is “going to be very important” for those pursuing the career and the aviation industry in general.

The US Aviation Academy is a private flight school with three locations in Texas, including Denton Enterprise Airport. Alongside private instruction, US Aviation Academy also works with Denton Independent School District. Although the high school program is relatively new, the interest is high, with the last interest session for the program having “more people than seats,” said Scott Sykes, Chief Development Officer for the US Aviation Academy.

“We go to career fairs all the time and many students are really unaware that it’s possible to become a pilot without going into the military,” Sykes said. “And so on the high school level, it’s really important to have that engagement so they know what career paths are available to them.”

Sykes said the organization is waiting for TWU’s RFP to be officially filed before communicating with TWU. Graves also mentioned that TWU is interested in working with Denton ISD.

In the coming weeks, Graves said TWU will submit its plans to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and will later seek approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Featured Image: Texas Woman’s University displays a sign at the campus in Denton, Texas on May 28, 2023. Makayla Brown

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Ismael M. Belkoura

Ismael M. Belkoura

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