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Horizon Air invests in Central Washington University's Aviation students

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ELLENSBURG, Wash.- Some students at Central Washington University are now soaring to new heights with the University's adoption of a pilot development program for those pursuing a Bachelor's of Science and a Professional Pilot major.

CWU's Aviation Program is the 1st institution in the country to receive a direct financial investment from a commercial airline.

This year, Horizon Air informed the program's department chair they wanted to provide a stipend to aviation students, agreeing to give $7,500 each to 17 students for the academic year, as well as donating a $10,000 flight simulator to the department.

"It speaks... The quality of the program, the credibility of the program, how our graduates and alumni are doing well in the industry ... That speaks very well basically. We are so proud of it. As a chair ... It's a great honor for us,” said Dr. Sundaram Natareja, chair for CWU Department of Aviation.

While the stipend directly benefits the students, it's also a win for the airline due to a current pilot shortage.

Once offered the stipend, students also agree to work for Horizon for their first two years of their professional career.

An agreement student, Clayton Davis was happy to accept.

"I’ve got a job now with a company that I’ve always wanted to work for. So having that lined up, having the money in place, having everything laid out for me is ... It really has made me feel a lot more comfortable about finishing up here,” said Davis.

With students typically spending anywhere between $40-$60,000 dollars to complete the program, Clayton says the call came just in time.

"I was on the verge of having my parents needing to take out retirement loans so I could finish up and I was running out of money in my account for flying. I wasn't sure what was gunna happen for my career if I didn't get it because I wasn't sure I’d be able to finish the last stage of my training. Um, so when I got that phone call ... It was pretty good news,” said Davis.

And for Clayton, it’s not just a path for the next few years, but the start of his entire career. He says he wants to stay with Horizon Air indefinitely.

While nothing has been confirmed, both CWU and Horizon Air hope to continue this program in the coming years.

The department's chair says he also plans to pursue similar relationships with other airlines, wanting to walk with his students, post-graduation and into job placement.

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