The Liberty University School of Aeronautics recently acquired its first aircraft that is 100 percent owned by the university.
The Cessna 172SP G1000 Skyhawk was purchased directly from Cessna Aircraft Company. With the tail number N701LU, it is the first of the “700 series” that will be used to identify all planes from the School of Aeronautics.
According to John Marselus, associate dean for flight operations, the plane’s number holds additional significance because “7 is the number of completeness and 01 is the first of hopefully many planes the Lord will bless us with.”
The plane was purchased on May 16, just as the university’s flight team was participating in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Nationals in Salina, Kan. Manufactured just a few hours away in Independence, Kan., the plane was flown to the competition so Liberty students could have the first chance to check it out. Two students had the honor of flying it back to campus.
“The motivation of stepping into a brand new aircraft that smells like a new car increases the level of excellence in our program. The students are extremely positive about the opportunity to fly new aircraft,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Dave Young, dean of the School of Aeronautics.
The plane was used recently when senior Jacob Hilt from Charlton, Mass., and instructor Nathan Edwards assisted with a search and rescue for a CGS Hawk Arrow 2 experimental aircraft that went down over the weekend in Amherst County, Va.
“We were out for a lesson, and just about to return to the airport (Lynchburg Regional Airport) when we heard the (distress) transmission from the tower to the aircraft,” Edwards said. “Before we could get off the runway, they asked us how much fuel we had, and we took right back off and they gave us a couple headings, and once we found it, we circled the plane until they (rescue crews) found it.”
According to news reports, the pilot reported his engine cut off and he was forced to land in a field. He did not sustain any serious injuries.
Marselus said the Cessna purchase is another sign that the aeronautics program is exceeding expectations. When he arrived in the summer of 2010, there were 90 students on the flight line; in January, there were more than 180.
“That is the Lord’s entire blessing,” Marselus said. “What that does is it leads us to needing aircraft.”
After leasing its aircraft from private owners, Liberty has decided to pursue ownership of its entire fleet of training aircraft.
“We are very blessed in the growth and the quality of the program that we have enjoyed, and we need to maintain that quality,” Young said. “Having up-to-date, modern equipment is absolutely critical to our program, and to maintain the level of excellence we desire.”
Marselus agreed: “We always want to provide the best, safest aircraft that we can for the students and purchasing new aircraft brings that up to the next notch.”
The honor of the plane’s first official training flight went to Lindsey Gray (instructor) and Megan Grupp, a sophomore from Kodiak, Alaska, studying missionary aviation.