$3.4 million grant from the General Assembly's Delaware Higher Education Economic Development Fund to expand Delaware State University's program.

New planes are arriving for the Delaware State University aviation program.

University officials, state legislators, alumni, members of the aviation community and other friends and supporters gathered at the Delaware Air Park in Cheswold Sept. 18 to celebrate the first of a new fleet of airplanes for the university’s aviation program.

The new fleet is the result of a $3.4 million grant from the General Assembly’s Delaware Higher Education Economic Development Fund to significantly expand the  aviation program.

The university is buying 10 Vulcanair V1.0 single-engine aircraft from Ameravia Inc., and a twin-engine Piper.

University president Wilma Mishoe said that the grant provided critical help to the aviation program and its aging fleet.

“Our planes would have been out of compliance by 2020,” Mishoe said. “The General Assembly stepped up and funded an entire fleet for us, and I want to thank them.”

Rep. Debra Heffernan noted that the theme – “Watch Us Soar” – was fitting for the aviation program. She said it is a smart investment for the state.

“This is truly a win-win for Kent County and the state as a whole,” said Heffernan. She is the co-chair of the General Assembly’s Bond Bill Committee, which approved the grant.

Devona Williams, chairperson of DSU’s board of trustees, said aviation is one of the gems of the university.

“The board of trustees recognizes the aviation program as one of the programs that makes Delaware State University unique and serves our mission to make our mark on the world,” Williams said.

The program boasts 100% career placement of graduating professional pilots. The new fleet is expected to move the program to even higher levels of excellence, university officials said.

“The new fleet and its systems and avionics puts us light years ahead of what we have been flying,” said Michael Hales, aviation program director.

He said the additional planes will enable the program to accept more students.

“We have had students coming out of the woodwork from all over the place (to enroll),” Hales said. “They are seeing the success students are having in this program.”

Rep. Stephanie Bolden said this latest addition to the aviation program makes her think of a phase from past President Barack Obama.

“He said ‘Yes we can’.” Bolden said. “I say, 'Yes we did.'"