famu-cessna.jpgOPA-LOCKA — The Florida Memorial University (FMU) Aviation and Safety Department ushered in a new era of excellence on Sept. 28 when more than 100 guests joined university officials and students at the Opa-locka Airport to help dedicate the newest addition to the South Florida skies.

On a windy, blue-sky day, the new aircraft was taxied around to the canopy at Miami Executive Aviation where Henry Lewis III, FMU president, hopped out and addressed the enthusiastic crowd of elected officials, university representatives, airport executives, flight school personnel and FMU aviation students.

“We are here to serve notice, that Florida Memorial University is a place where dreams also take flight,” declared Lewis. “This new airplane allows our students to gain experience on state-of-the-art equipment and provides the greater community with stellar aviation professionals.”

The orange-and-blue Cessna 172 SP with G1000 Avionics, is a single-engine, four-passenger aircraft that will allow students to earn various pilot licenses and instrument ratings.

Mychal Martin, a recent FMU aviation graduate, was at the controls on this day. He is now a certified flight instructor at Endeavor Flight Training, Inc. “I never thought it would get to the point that FMU would have its own plane,” Martin said. “I felt  very empowered and deeply honored to celebrate the moment.”

Lewis applauded the generosity of the U.S. Air Force and the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust; both entities provided grants to underwrite the airplane. In an effort to uplift the community, FMU is making the plane available to customers interested in flight lessons through Endeavour Flight Training, Inc.

“We offering new possibilities to our community by giving future aviators access to our plane,” Lewis announced. “Local residents will be able take flight lessons at affordable and competitive prices.”

Since its inception in 1985, the Aviation and Safety Department has created a pipeline for high-quality aviators and airport-management professionals. After 27 years of academic excellence, the program is poised to ascend to new heights with its latest hi-tech addition.

It confers bachelor degrees in Aeronautical Science with a concentration in Flight Education, and Airway Science with a concentration in Airway Science Management.  Additionally, the program launched an Air Traffic Control major and a Homeland Security minor last year.

“We spared no expense in developing this aircraft,” said Capt. Arnold Tolbert, FMU aviation program chairman. “We take great pride in producing a first-class product with first-class resources.”            

Tolbert, a retired decorated military and commercial pilot charged with guiding one of the region’s most exhaustive Aviation and Safety programs, added: “Our graduates are competitive and competent.”

He smiled broadly as one of those graduates, Barrington Irving, who has already made history in his own right, spoke during the news conference. Irving earned famed as the first black and youngest pilot to successfully embark on a solo flight around the world.

“This is a great day for our program” the Guinness World Record holder noted. “The FMU Aviation program is growing and soaring. I wish I had access to this type of plane while I was a student,” Irving said. “We are finally on the map. I hope to log a few flight hours on this plane.”

For more information visit FMUniv.edu