Wed, Feb 26 2014
LeTourneau University was one of the top aviation programs featured in the February 3, issue of Flying Magazine.
Aviation writer Stephen Pope interviewed LETU flight students and flight sciences department chair Lauren Bitikofer. Pope then wrote this about LETU:
LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, takes that concept one step further by offering initial pilot training in a fleet consisting exclusively of Citabria taildraggers purchased new from American Champion Aircraft Corp. Not only are training costs lower in the bare-bones Citabrias, the school has also noticed an improvement in the flying skills of its students, says Lauren Bitikofer, chairman of the university’s flight sciences department.
“We’re extremely pleased with the stick-and-rudder skills of our pilots who learned to fly in the Citabrias,” he says. Starting its students in taildraggers before moving them to G1000 Cessna 172s after they earn their private turned out to be a great decision, Bitikofer says. Every new student who comes to the school learns to fly in taildraggers, as opposed to the school’s previously offered option of learning to fly in the Citabria or 172.
LeTourneau is the only aviation college in the country that has switched to an all-taildragger fleet for primary fight instruction, though several schools offer taildragger flight training, including aerobatics at many colleges, a number of which have their own aerobatic teams that compete against each other for the Collegiate National Championship through the International Aerobatic Club. Students can also show off their talents at the annual National Intercollegiate Flying Association Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference, better known as Safecon. The competition brings more than 300 students from 30 colleges and universities from across the country together to vie for team and pilot honors in spot landing, target drop and other categories.
Another unusual aspect of the flight training program at LeTourneau, a Christian college, is its bush pilot school. Cameron Laramee, a sophomore who is working toward his commercial license in the Skyhawk, will soon transition into a Cessna 206 and start his bush pilot training as part of a career path that includes aspirations to fly for a Christian mission in Africa. “When I visited LeTourneau, I fell in love with the school,” Laramee said. “There was nowhere else I wanted to go. The fact that I could learn in a taildragger, move into a glass-panel airplane and then transition to bush flying made the choice easy.”