New aircraft allows Clover Park's pilot program to soar


Tacoma Daily Index editor

Clover Park Technical College introduced a new addition to its aviation program in November when professional pilot instructor Lucas Holm ended a cross-country flight from Florida at Pierce County’s Thun Field.

Credit: David Guest / TDI Tecnam P2006T with a tail number selected in honor of Clover Park interim president Joyce Loveday.
Credit: David Guest / TDI
Tecnam P2006T with a tail number selected in honor of Clover Park interim president Joyce Loveday.

Holm flew a brand-new Italian-built twin engine Tecnam P2006T airplane to Clover Park’s South Hill Campus aircraft hanger, and with it, he delivered an opportunity for current and future students in the school’s professional pilot program to earn the twin-engine certification they need to become airline pilots.

“This is a new day in the history of the Clover Park professional pilot program,” Clover Park’s interim president Joyce Loveday said, verbally christening the aircraft without having to swing a bottle of Champagne. “May this plane operate for many years, preparing students with the experience and skills necessary to safely fly multi-engine aircraft … It will enable CPTC to continue as a leader in aviation education for years to come.”

Clover Park has been training pilots for nearly 75 years, but without a twin-engine aircraft available, students had to transfer to other programs to continue training to become professional pilots. The Tecnam P2006T cost over $600,000, but according to CPTC Board of Trustees chair and professional pilot Bruce Lachney, it’s an investment the school needed to make.

“On the board of trustees, we are constantly having to make resource decisions,” Lachney said. “We’re being pushed and pulled about where to spend the dollars. Our job is to buy the tools and let the staff teach you how to really use those tools. This is a tool that was missing for a long time. We needed this tool.”

The Tecnam P2006T is a four-seat aircraft that is economical to operate, burning just nine gallons of fuel an hour and able to provide instrument flight rules training in all weather conditions, day and night. The aircraft features a modern “glass cockpit” which utilizes LCD screens to display flight data to the pilot rather than using analog dials and gauges.

Before earning a job as an airline pilot, students must become proficient in dealing with the unique characteristics of flying twin-engine aircraft.

“It sounds odd, but in multi-engine airplanes, most of your training is with one engine off,” Holm said. “The biggest hazard is losing an engine in a twin-engine airplane. We’ll shut an engine off, go through how to restart an engine … we’ll do maneuvers on one engine.”

Tuition for students in the professional pilot program is the same as it is for students in other areas of education at the college. However, the high cost of flight time, flight instruction and costs associated with passing FAA requirements push the total cost of finishing the Professional Pilot Associate of Arts degree to $60,000-70,000, not including transportation, room and board.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median wage for commercial airline pilots in Washington State is $87,100 per year. New pilots might earn as little as $45,000 a year to start while experienced pilots may earn upwards of $200,000.

Flying for the airlines isn’t the only way to earn a living in the sky. Professional pilots fly air ambulances, sightseeing planes, charter aircraft, helicopters and corporate planes. The median yearly salary for those positions in Washington State is $76,500.

Students in the aviation maintenance program will devote just as much time as their counterparts in the pilot program. It’ll take eight quarters (two years including summers) to graduated with an Aviation Maintenance Technician Associate of Arts degree. Maintenance grads will pay considerably less to graduate, however, with two-year costs at around $20,000. While aircraft mechanics don’t have the opportunity to earn what pilots do at the high end of the pay scale, the median wage of $69,200 per year and starting wages for mechanics compare favorably.

When the Tecnam aircraft was unveiled, the praise and appreciation for those who were instrumental in acquiring it flowed throughout the hanger. Program instructors and board members made sure that students for years to come would remember the individual they credited the most.

“The numbers on this aircraft …,” Holm explained. “We chose specifically for the support that Joyce (Loveday) gave to purchasing this aircraft. ‘Julia Lima,’ the last two digits (of the FAA registration tail number – N260JL) are for Joyce Loveday. To say ‘thank you’ to her for the support she’s given our program.”


Clover Park Technical College

Aviation maintenance and professional pilot programs

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 3 p.m.

South Hill Campus

17214 110th Avenue E

Puyallup, WA 98374