BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO)–South Dakota State University has expanded its aviation program, with the addition of a brand new training plane.

Shelbe Jarrett was the first SDSU student to get behind the controls of the school’s new custom made Cessna Skyhawk.

“It was my first time you know I was handed the keys to a brand new aircraft, straight out of the factory, it only had a few hours on it, so it was just an incredible experience. Still had that new plane smell, smells just like a new car,” said Jarrett.

Jarrett flew the plane from the Textron factory in Kansas to its new home in the SDSU hanger.

“You know, it was a smooth uneventful flight on the way up here,” Jarrett said. “Yeah, it was a great flight, a fantastic experience.”

SDSU was one of 5 universities awarded a plane as part of the 2022 Top Hawk Program.

“It’s our first brand new aircraft,” said Devin Bastemeyer, manager of flight operations. “Just being able to show our students the different upgrades in avionics and then the safety features that this has, is a really good experience for them.”

When students enter the plane, they are greeted with some of the most advanced technology, preparing them for their future careers in aviation.

“It is a technologically advanced aircraft, which provides our students the hands-on experience to hop in and get that kind of one on one attention with advanced avionics before they go into their professional careers,” said Jarrett.

“We have 11 other Cessna 172s, the other newest one is a 2007 model, so the avionics and the autopilot on this one are quite a bit more upgraded,” said Bastemeyer. “It has enhanced stability protection so it’s got some safety features that are kind of built-in that make it a safer aircraft as well.”

SDSU is home to the state’s only aviation program, serving 180 students. This plane will not only benefit the current students, but also be used as a recruitment tool for reaching future students.

“All of our students will get to use it, with the intent of us taking it out on cross-country profiles throughout South Dakota, showing it at different air shows, fly-ins and in community events,” said Bastemeyer.

“Aviation like any industry is constantly changing and adapting and technology is no exception, technology is advancing rapidly, so it’s super important that we kind of grow with the technological advancements that are going on in society and in the industry,” said Jarrett. “It’s great that students are prepared for that before they go to the regional airlines or corporate or start flying cargo, so that they can be set up for success in their professional careers.”

Growing the program, to meet the needs of the industry.

“It’s a great time to get into aviation you know, there’s very much so a need for pilots right now, not just pilots but every aviation professional out there in the industry, so its a great time to look into aviation programs, like the one here at South Dakota State University,” said Jarrett.

Preparing students for a smooth flight as they take off in their new careers.

The new aircraft was introduced into the flight training for students this week after instructors were able to educate themselves on how all the new technology works.

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