Aviation students attending Pacific Union College can now complete the commercial flight training portion of their program in Angwin, thanks to the recent purchase of a Piper Seminole twin-engine plane. Last year, an FAA mandate posed a crisis to the aviation program, since the aircraft being used for commercial training no longer met requirements for FAA practical tests.
After researching the perfect aircraft for training purposes, Nathan Tasker, chief flight instructor and director of the PUC flight center, concluded a Piper Seminole was the aircraft of choice.
"The Seminole is great for what it was designed to do - train," said Tasker. "Its operating costs are low; it is safe and easy to fly; it can safely perform emergency procedures in-flight; and it is capable of short-field landings and takeoffs."
But PUC lacked the funds needed to purchase a Seminole.
Thankfully, that didn't stop Tasker. After sharing his vision with others, offering many prayers, writing over 400 letters to every Seminole owner in the country, selling another plane, receiving donations, acquiring a loan, working through on-line trading companies, and making four inspection trips to Florida, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, there was still no plane. Most people would have given up at this stage. But not Tasker.
It was an emotional homecoming when, 15 months after the crisis began, Tasker finally landed PUC's new Seminole on the Angwin airstrip. Leif Aaen, an airplane mechanic from Angwin, accompanied Tasker as they flew the plane from Pennsylvania. "As we announced that we were turning final for a full-stop landing, tears came to our eyes," said Tasker.
Tasker's focus for the aviation program at PUC is one of service. He hopes that students graduating from PUC's aviation program will be prepared to "make the world a better place by aiding in the provision of food, medical assistance, health and hygiene education, transportation and communication to developing countries."
PUC currently offers both primary and advanced flight training to PUC students and community members. The new Seminole is used for the commercial portion of the training as well as the initial flight instructor rating.
"I never considered attending PUC before," said Janet Bingham, Calistoga resident and '93 graduate of St. Helena High School. "But when I researched aviation programs, PUC was the most affordable in the area, and I've been impressed with the instruction I've received."