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Aviation technology fades from DCCCD

MIKE McGEE | 1/26/2015, 11:57 a.m.
A large display of photos hangs on the wall above Professor Richard Parra’s computer inside his Mountain View Collage office. ...
Jerra Williams, commander of the Red Bird Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, is concerned that the recent closing of Aviation Technology classes at Mountain View Collage will adversely affect the career paths of area students. Mike McGee

The Dallas Examiner

A large display of photos hangs on the wall above Professor Richard Parra’s computer inside his Mountain View Collage office. One image in particular depicts him rappelling from a helicopter. Not only is it a visual reminder of Parra’s duties and accomplishments during his Vietnam-era military service, but the display also emphasizes Parra’s decades-long interest in flight.

Parra is a pilot and was an instructor in the MVC Aviation Technology program that had been a part of the college since the early 1970s.

In 2012, the course was officially shut down by the collage, followed by a “teach out” period ending in 2014 that brought academic closure to the program according to MVC Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Quentin Wright.

Parra, who continues to teach psychology, said the dismantling of the program was caused by a gap between the numbers of students graduating from the program, versus the number of graduates that state guidelines require.

“Under the old legislation, a program had to have so many graduates within in a certain period of time. We were short one or two from what I remember,” Parra stated, admitting that the state would have shut the program down for 10 years under the previous rules.

He noted in 2013 the legislature gave individual schools more control over the fate of their curricula.

“Now it’s up to the collage to decide if they want the program,” Parra offered, adding that the aviation courses were voluntarily closed down by MVC to avoid a harsher fate had the state intervened.

Edward ‘Tex” Collins, also a pilot and lab assistant at the school, provided further detail into what led up to the closure.

“To be a pilot you have to have a pilot certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration,” he said. To fly for a living requires further training – training that MVC once provided. “The old law said you had to have 25 graduates in five years; well, nobody explained that graduate certificates and [pilot] completion certificates were the same thing. If you completed your pilot certificate, you were eligible for a [graduation] certificate but Mountain View didn’t know they could issue them so they didn’t, and the certificates would have been equated the same as a graduation.”

The end result is that there is no college flight training in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Collins revealed that student enrollment in the aviation program was low in part because the Dallas County Community College District advertises its colleges but not the specific programs available. He further illustrated his point using the culinary arts program under the Food and Hospitality degree plans available at the El Centro campus downtown.

“It’s one of the best in the country,” he stated. “Ever hear of it?”

Parra in turn complained that, since specific programs within the DCCCD aren’t advertised, MVC is losing both students and qualified instructors to other aviation-based schools that do engage in effective marketing.

The MVC program did more than train pilots; it also prepared students for careers in aviation mechanics and airport management. Parra and Collins maintained that such jobs are vitally important to the region: Dallas County is the base for an international airport: Dallas Love Field and Addison Airport, with Alliance Airport nearby in Tarrant County.