July 05, 2006

China's booming aviation sector may benefit SIUC

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill.  ­  China's burgeoning aviation and tourism industries could benefit Southern Illinois University Carbondale educational and research programs.

         Last month's trip to China and Taiwan was valuable, SIUC College of Applied Sciences and Arts Dean Paul D. Sarvela said.

            "In light of the fact that they have tremendous manpower needs from an education perspective and an airline perspective, it is clear SIUC can play an important role in addressing their manpower and training needs," he said.  "We would be able to form a partnership that would be a win-win for everyone."

            That includes increased research opportunities for faculty and staff, particularly in regard to emerging markets such as China and the regulatory environments they operate in, Sarvela said.

            Sarvela, along with John D. Cotter, interim chair of aviation technologies, David S. Worrells, an associate professor in aviation management and flight and the SIUC Faculty Senate president, and Stephen Shin, an assistant professor in the School of Information Management Systems and Applied Technology, made the trip to the Far East and Asia, June 5-14.

            In China, the delegation met with representatives of Sanya Aviation & Tourism College in Sanya, China, and Hainan Airlines, the country's fourth-largest airline.  While in Taiwan, the group met with representatives with National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan.

            Aviation in China is a "booming industry" and there is a "tremendous need" for pilots, aviation technologists, managers and information systems specialists – all the people needed to run a successful airline, Sarvela said.  China needs about 1,200 new pilots annually, and there are about 100 support people – airframe and power plant workers, avionics specialists, and managers – for each plane, he said.

            "They have very ambitious plans to expand their aviation industry and along with those plans they recognize the need to train, and that is where we come in," Sarvela said.

            Sanya Aviation & Tourism College wants to increase its faculty from 110 to 400 people, and CASA could help "build their faculty" by training future instructors to return to China, he said.  The college has "top-of-the-shelf flight simulators," two 737 flight simulators along with a Dornier jet simulator.

            Worrells, who went with the group to China, said he was impressed with what he saw.  The airline is modeling itself after Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways and "doing a very good job of it," he said.

            He hopes that in addition to becoming involved in teaching students how to fly and work on aircraft, the college works with them on managing airlines and airport resources.

            The discussions included programs in other colleges at SIUC.  The country's tourism is expanding, and the group brought materials from the College of Agricultural Sciences' hospitality and tourism and turf management programs, Sarvela said.  Because English is the international language of aviation, the group also discussed the university's Center for English as a Second Language, Sarvela said.

            "As these Chinese airlines begin to expand into the international market, their pilots will have to speak English fluently and we know that our CESL programs will help their pilots attain that needed level of fluency," he said.

            The group extended an invitation for the Chinese to visit, Sarvela said.

            "We are convinced that once they meet our faculty and staff and see our facilities they will feel quite comfortable in sending students to SIUC," he said.

The visit to NCKU in Taiwan was also good, with the group visiting that university's engineering programs, Sarvela said.  There is already a cooperative agreement between NCKU and SIUC's College of Engineering that Sarvela is looking to build upon – possibly with some faculty seminars as early as next year, he said.

         Leading in research, scholarly and creative activities is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.