Refining the fleet

UND Aerospace expected to change out more than half of its existing training aircraft with new Piper Archers

UND Aerospace has some new hardware on its flight line this year in Grand Forks, and there’s more coming.

The flight school, part of the John D. Odegard School for Aerospace Sciences, recently acquired two Piper Archer single-engine training aircraft, with plans to add six more in the next couple of weeks. Eventually, UND Aerospace would like to see as many as 60-65 Archer trainers as part of its fleet. That would be in addition to four new Seminole multi-engine aircraft, which the school also uses for training, and those should be arriving soon.

UND Aerospace eventually will have as many as 16 of the Seminole aircraft in its fleet.

All told, according to Dick Schultz, UND Aerospace director of flight operations, the flight school currently has about 90 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters as part of its training fleet in Grand Forks.

Piper Archer Open House

(Front to back) Brody Graff, Maple Grove, Minn.; Luke Schurtz, Chicago; and Max Lambrecht, Shakopee, Minn., check out the inner workings of a new Piper Archer II single-engine aircraft on display during a recent open house put on by UND Aerospace. Eventually, the flight school estimates it could have as many as 65 of the new Piper Archer aircraft available for student training. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

The Archers, considered a low-wing aircraft, will largely replace the Cessna 172 aircraft that UND Aerospace has been using for private-pilot and commercial-pilot certification training. The Cessna 172s are a high-wing aircraft, meaning the plane’s wings extend over the cockpit. Low-wing aircraft, such as the Archers, have wings that extend from the body of the plane below the cockpit doors.

The Cessnas also have control flaps that are operated electronically, as opposed to manually on the Archers.

“But the avionics are all the same on these aircraft, so it’s a very easy transition for our student pilots,” Schultz said.

Schultz says the changeover is going really well. Once the Federal Aviation Administration authorizes use of the new Archers for training, UND Aerospace will get its instructor pilots trained on the new planes so they can, in turn, start training students on a variety of piloting skills.

Piper Archer Open House

A group of UND pilots check out the new Pipe Archer II plane siting on display at an open house held Nov. 10, inside a UND Aerospace hangar. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Schultz says there’s a methodology involved with selling and purchasing aircraft for an operation like UND Aerospace with such a large training fleet.

“What we really don’t want to do is a mass sale of aircraft,” Schultz said. “For starters, it’s difficult to sell 60 aircraft at once, and at the same time, we don’t want to flood the market.”

With the school’s multi-engine Seminole training aircraft, the process is a little easier because UND Aerospace is currently operating those aircraft and because there are far fewer; Schultz said, “As we sell one, we just bring a new one in.”

Another factor Schultz has to keep in mind when it comes to changing over aircraft is maintenance schedules.

“You don’t want to have the exact same service timelines going on all the aircraft,” he said. “If you do that, they’re all going to need new engines or something at about the same time.”