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Dowling College to keep flight training school open

Dowling College in Oakdale before the fall semester

Dowling College in Oakdale before the fall semester starts. (Aug. 5, 2010) Credit: Michael E. Ach

Dowling College, facing outrage from students and employees after announcing the closing of its flight training school, said Sunday that the school will remain open.

The announcement reverses statements the school made last week, when it said it would stop training pilots in order to focus on aviation management classes.

Citing "a lot of confusion," Interim president Scott Rudolph blamed a "serious mistake" in communications among administrators for Wednesday's announcement.

Rudolph said the college will consider ways to save money on pilot training, including partnerships with private flight schools.

"Nothing is finalized, and we've just started talking to people," Rudolph said. "It's not like we want to end the flight program."

The flight training school is part of Dowling's School of Aviation, which has about 300 students.

The new announcement was meant to calm what Rudolph characterized as "panicking" at the school's campus at Brookhaven's Calabro Airport.

The news brought relief to Cecilia Curley, 21, an aviation student from Connecticut who is about to start her senior year. She chose Dowling after having trouble finding a program near her home that would allow her to earn a bachelor's degree in four years while earning a private pilot's license, a commercial license and other certifications.

"We have amazing professors, and beautiful fleet of planes, and to take it away would be tragic," Curley said. She added that she felt especially lucky to be at Dowling because another college that she had considered abruptly closed its aviation program several months ago.

Rudolph said Dowling, which wants to save money on its campuses in Brookhaven and Oakdale, will look into selling some or all of its 16 planes and perhaps joining with a local flight school that already has planes. "We're open minded about ways to make things as efficient as possible and the best costwise," he said.

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