The buzz of planes overhead has become commonplace in Rangely, Colorado. In large part this is because Rangely is home to Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC) where for nearly 60 years they have been training commercial pilots on the western slope of Colorado. CNCC has educated hundreds of pilots around Colorado and beyond. Alumni have excelled in flight operations at airlines, corporate, private and military ventures.
This week, Colorado Northwestern Community College announced the hiring of Nathan Hardin as its new Aviation Flight Program Director. Nathan is an alumnus of the CNCC Flight Program and served as flight instructor for three years and the National Intercollegiate Flight Association (NIFA) team coach, before completing both a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics from Liberty University and a Master of Education in Higher Education Leadership. Prior to accepting the director position with CNCC, Hardin was the Director of Aeronautics at Southwest Aeronautics Mathematics & Science Academy in New Mexico for three years, where he has worked to expand their secondary aeronautics programming and created their drone program. Hardin is also a proud veteran of the U.S. Navy where he served as an Aviation Electronics Technician.
For Hardin, the position is a bit of a homecoming. “The thing that excites me most about becoming the Aviation Program Director at CNCC is the ability to give back to a community and school that has given me so much. As an alumnus of CNCC I am extremely proud of where I came from and I can’t wait to show this community, and the world at large, what we are capable of.”, said Hardin.
He goes on to explain, “My long term vision for CNCC Aviation is to bring the program into the 21st century. I see a future at CNCC where we are meeting the challenges of the aviation industry by supplying the best trained, most conscientious aviators possible, in the most well equipped and maintained fleet in the state of Colorado.”
That is welcome news for the aviation industry that has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to travel restrictions, many airlines furloughed pilots or offered them early retirement in order to reduce costs. As the world begins to emerge from the pandemic and travel restrictions are being lifted, airlines are struggling to find pilots to meet the rising demand. There are 66,920 aviation jobs open nationwide (over 1,100 in Colorado alone), among 1,668 locations offered by 954 companies.
Thankfully, there are individuals like David Cole who are willing to help. Cole, a former CNCC Flight Program Director and longtime supporter of CNCC’s aviation program, stepped out of retirement to shepherd the aviation program while they searched for the new program director. He points out, “The demand for pilots is high and it’s just going to increase. Frankly, that’s why I’m here. Aviation programs are struggling to find instructors who have the experience to qualify for the position because they’re being taken up by the industry.”
Cole continues, “I don’t think it has been this bad since the mid 70’s when airlines offered to hire private pilots with a high school diploma and pay for the rest of their training.”
Prior to the pandemic in 2019, the projected growth in jobs for pilots by 2030 was 10% and for aviation maintenance technicians was approximately 13%. Post pandemic, due to the number of retirements, Boeing forecasts the number of new pilots needed over the next 20 years in North America alone will be 130,000.
CNCC stands prepared to take on the challenge, along with institutional and educational partners “Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver has long valued its academic partnerships with CNCC. CNCC’s Aviation Technology program and the Aviation and Aerospace Science Department at MSU Denver have collaborated for decades in developing integrated pathways for students seeking careers in aviation as future professional flight officers.” said Jeffrey Forrest, Chair of the Aviation & Aerospace Science Department at MSU Denver. “We believe that Nathan is the type of leader who will foster and grow collaboration between CNCC and MSU Denver, and be critical to the enhancement of Colorado as a national center for aviation and aerospace educational services and commerce.”
Dr. Lisa Jones, CNCC President, under her new administration has recognized the value aviation has to the region of Northwest Colorado and has committed college resources to expanding an already thriving historical program into a growth oriented program for the future. Investment of resources and expanded enrollments will be to the economic benefit of the entire western slope.
“CNCC has a proud history in aviation and deep roots in the industry with partners and friends all over the globe“, notes Dr. Jones. “For many years the program has topped the national rankings as an outstanding two-year aviation program and its graduates are sought globally.”
“Moving forward into the next 60 years, our goals are to expand capacity, opening opportunity for greater numbers of student pilots; utilize aerospace research to continue innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and build upon the existing partnerships we have nurtured in education and industry.”, explained Jones.
About CNCC: Colorado Northwestern Community College enhances people’s lives by providing an accessible, affordable, quality education. It is the college of choice for students seeking a unique education grounded in the Colorado experience.
Learn more about CNCC at http://www.cncc.edu.
PRESS RELEASE | Special to the Herald Times