A Northwestern Air Lease plane was the site of Aurora College’s 50th anniversary logo unveiling on Thursday, in a move meant to symbolize long-standing relations between the two community partners.

The airline is a major sponsor of the college’s anniversary and will feature the new logo on approximately seven of its planes.

“Some of you may wonder why we’re here at the airport doing this today and not at the college. I did ask whether we could get the Jetstream over to the college and apparently it’s a little bit complicated – apparently the runway isn’t long enough in the back parking lot,” joked Jeff O’Keefe, interim college president.

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Speaking to the two-dozen people on hand, he said, “Partnerships and support from our communities have been the backbone of our operations and of our successes.

“For example, Northwestern supports our Observer-Communicator program and the Trades Awareness Program. Some of you here may remember the Aviation School from years gone by.”

Northwestern Air Lease is planning to relaunch the aviation school in 2019.

“Aurora College is still in discussions with Northwestern Air Lease,” O’Keefe later said in a written statement. “In particular, we are discussing potential collaboration to develop an aviation management diploma in a model similar to that in place between Yukon College with Aklan Air.

“Yukon College has created a diploma in Aviation Management. Students in this program are [integrated into] existing Business Administration and other courses already offered at Yukon College.

“An Aviation Management program is intended to prepare trained pilots for management positions.”

Jim Heidema, chief operating officer of the airline, thanked the college for supplying it with many graduates over the years.

“We’re pleased because we have a strong team, and you should be pleased because you’ve contributed to that team,” he said.

After the event, Heidema provided Cabin Radio with an update on the new aviation school.

“The key missing part is a level three instructor,” he said, explaining instructors are in high demand across the country.

Northwestern also needs a ground school site.

“We haven’t reached an agreement with any college yet. We’re looking at Aurora [College], we’re looking at SALT [Pentecostal Sub-Arctic Leadership Training College] here in town, and we’re looking at Northern Lakes [College],” Heidema said.

He expects the ground school will begin in February 2019, a month later than originally forecasted, while flight school – in two Cessna 172s – will begin as soon as the weather reaches acceptable temperatures in the spring.