A Million Things and More for the Future of the Aviation Program

The evolving career path at Cypress College’s Aviation program has recently been able to become more accessible to students through an anonymous donation of one million dollars.

Having been a program of Cypress College for over fifty years, starting in 1967 by Charles “Chuck” Gifford, the Aviation and Travel program has been exceeding in attendance and equipment over the past few years. One of which was the recent generous offering of an anonymous donor and what he and Department Chair, Captain Edilberto Valdez, hope to achieve with the one million dollars donated to the program, goes beyond any expectations for the evolving career path.

Captain Valdez has been representing and managing the program as he would jokingly say “by me, myself and I” as Department Coordinator for a year now, but has spent most of his time working alongside Kathleen Reiland starting back in 2004 at Cypress College. Valdez has gone to express his passion and desires through his courses due to his training as a pilot for over thirty years working for major airlines, corporate flight departments and working with military and NASA test pilots.

The recent donation given to the college was a product of someone who was motivated and moved by what the college had to offer and saw the potential of what it could be. The donation has allowed for growth in all the courses and equipment whereas previously, all funding for the program came from the Perkins Grant, a federal grant for vocational courses, and allowed for little growth over several years.

Cypress Colleges’ Aviation department has seen a consistent growth of attendance among enrolled students, which according to Captain Valdez is due to, “…. more job opportunities and growth… recently there has been more of a demand for pilots and aviation professionals and what we are seeing is a rise in those interested, even if it’s not in their heart, they see it as a good viable career…”

As Department Chair, Captain Valdez oversees pilot training, flight attendant training, aviation management, customer service, and the administration of justice through the TSA- and these are just many of the offerings included with the studies at the college. The greatest aspect of studying at the colleges’ aviation program is that most of the adjunct faculty under Valdez, “are working in the industry… and then come here [to the college] and are able to share what they do everyday…and the funny thing is when I go to LAX airport, I see many of my students who graduated from the college.”

One of the many great offerings available at Cypress compared to other schools, are the hands on flight simulation lab’s. The lab is an one unit course for those who have “either finished or are currently enrolled in the ATC 132 Private Pilot” and who want the most accurate representation of flying an aircraft. This carries with it an advantage for newcomers to the field, providing perspective into the lives of those who decide to devote their time to the craft of flying without having to physically fly a plane.

Many of the students in the program are “hitting their mark to become a pilot in about forty hours when the average time it takes is seventy to one hundred hours” according to Captain Valdez. Captain Valdez has also led the charge for more relevant courses such as Drone technology becoming eligible here on the campus.

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