Oklahoma State flight students, instructors and administrators at the OSU Flight Center are excited for the benefits commercial airline service will bring Stillwater Regional Airport.
They expect it to pay off in more ways than one.
Commercial airline service will only help improve the OSU flight school, said Lance Fortney, head of the OSU flight program.
“I think it’s great,” Fortney said. “I think it brings a lot of positive things to the area, including our flight program.”
Although there will be more traffic at Stillwater Regional Airport, it won’t get in the way of the flight school’s operations, said Jessica Dobie, an OSU flight instructor.
The twice-daily commercial service simply means the bigger planes will be around smaller ones a bit more, Dobie said. But instructors’ and students’ work won’t be disrupted.
The daily interaction between the student pilots and the professional ones could only help, she said.
“There’s always networking to be done, especially within aviation,” Dobie said. “Networking is key, really, to getting any kind of job. The fact that we’re flying in the same air space with a commercial airliner, it could be equally beneficial to be networking.”
OSU flight students earn their certified flight instructor license after 1,000 hours in the sky. Afterward, they are allowed to sign contracts with regional airlines, such as Envoy Air, the American Airlines subsidiary providing commercial service between Stillwater and Dallas.
Pilots work their way up the regional ranks before moving into positions with major airlines such as American, Delta and Southwest, Dobie said.
In recent years, Fortney said speculation has swirled around closing the Stillwater flight tower. He said commercial service likely means the tower will serve enough of a necessity to stay.
“When the FAA or other agencies look at airports, a lot of what they look at is what’s the traffic count?” Fortney said. “So anything that brings more of that, which is what commercial air service does, positions that airport better to not lose their air traffic controllers.”
Dobie said security measures have been heightened as well. She said OSU student-pilots won’t need to adapt to more than a few bigger planes in the air space and on the runways.
“I’m not expecting to see a whole lot of traffic increase,” said Adam Berman, a student-pilot. “I don’t think we’ll notice. If we do, it will probably be rare. You might see a jet fly in every once in a while, but I don’t think it will change anything for the Oklahoma State flight students incredibly.”
Two flights are scheduled each day to and from Dallas and Stillwater, and tickets are expected to cost about $275 for a round-trip flight.
A misconception between the Stillwater community and OSU is that planes other than those in the OSU flight program will be seen for the first time when Envoy planes touch down Aug. 23, Berman said.
Private planes often fly in and out of Stillwater Regional Airport, especially for game days. Along with Cowboy One, which carries OSU’s athletic teams, Berman said larger aircraft have been used before.
“If you want to come fly in for game day, it might not be practical to drive across the country and watch the Bedlam game,” Berman said. “But you can fly right up to Stillwater, hop out, and then you have opportunity for other services like rental car. The growth of the area can be profound.”
There aren’t many cons to the commercial program, Dobie said.
The fall, winter and spring months’ profit will have to make up the deficit that will from the summer when half of the Stillwater residents leave the city for summer break, which is a point of contention, but she said she believes it won’t be an issue.