The Prescott campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) is modernizing and expanding its flight training facilities at Prescott Regional Airport to match soaring enrollment in its aeronautical science program.
“I think for the training opportunities, the value can’t be understated, and it will pay huge dividends for our students,” said Tim Holt, dean of the College of Aviation for the campus.
He said enrollment in aeronautical sciences has nearly tripled at the Prescott campus since 2016 and is now at about 1,200 students in the academic program, with 1,050 of those active in flight training.
Growth here and at ERAU’s other campus in Daytona Beach, Florida, has been driven by a looming pilot shortage as well as the school’s increasingly public profile.
The Robertson Flight Simulation Center, also referred to as F7, is on the southwest end of the airport and growing upward with the addition of a second floor and an expanded first floor for a total of 16,000 square feet for simulators and study space. It’s scheduled for completion in summer 2024.
The first floor will boast cutting-edge, full-motion simulated commercial cockpit simulators “to bring a little bit more modern simulations and give students a better feel of being in the aircraft while preparing for their flight training,” Holt said.
Simulators that use virtual and augmented reality technology, but not motion, are being installed on the second floor.
“They’re great for muscle memory, great for process teaching, great for ground reference maneuvers and getting to know the aircraft,” Holt said. A new flight observation deck will give students a more expansive view of flight patterns at the airport.
In addition, the university is building the all-new Strategic Aviation Flight Education (SAFE) Complex on the north side of the airport with ramp space for 40 new Cessna planes, a washing station and de-icing equipment. This will double the school’s aircraft capacity at the airport, also known as PRC.
These buildings will house much of the new technology being purchased for the Prescott flight program — ERAU is in the midst of a six-year push to buy $56.8 million in new aircraft and simulators.
ERAU is investing $9.2 million to build the SAFE complex and the revamped Robertson flight center, part of a wider drive to upgrade facilities. The $6.2 million Eagle Learning Complex is projected to come online next spring with a four-by-four, low-speed wind tunnel and an improved propulsion laboratory.
Construction on a new student union and residence hall is expected to begin after completion of the learning complex.