West Michigan Aviation Academy serving demand for pilots

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - The West Michigan Aviation Academy opened five years ago, and a growing demand for pilots is one of the reasons fueling its rapid growth.

Eighty students were in the first class in 2010. This year, 494 are enrolled and a lottery is required to fill the seats of the incoming freshman class.

"We think we're in the right place at the right time," academy CEO Pat Cwayna said Monday.

The WMAA is unique in the nation -- the only general admission public high school with an aviation focus.

It's thriving as the world's airlines wonder how they will fill all the empty seats in the cockpits. Massive mandatory pilot retirements at age 65, along with tougher certification requirements, have combined to create what Cwayna calls "a real crisis that they are finding, and they need to go to the feeder systems like we are to help their cause."

Twelve of the WMAA's spring graduates will leave school with a private pilot's license. Last year, three graduates got their PPL.


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