The fascination of flight! The ZHAW School of Engineering’s degree course in Aviation develops all-rounders in every aspect of this highly complex field, from aerodynamics to air law. We’ve been looking around…
It’s with the pilot’s customary composure that Christoph Regli guides his guests around the laboratory at his Centre for Aviation at the ZHAW School of Engineering. The simulator, the 30-kilo drone, the wind tunnel. “It’s all been built by our students and our lecturers,” he says. “And we’re proud of it, too!” He has reason to be. After ten years, the Aviation bachelor’s degree course at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Winterthur (ZHAW) is well and truly established. Started in 2006 after some dark days for Swiss aviation, the course is designed to produce broad-based aviation experts for both the private sector and the public realm.
A fascinating field
While original projections were for a niche demand of some 20 to 30 students a year, the ZHAW’s Aviation course – the only one of its kind in Switzerland – has proved extremely popular. And some 100 students a year are now acquiring the expertise they will need for future posts in air traffic control, in airport management, at airlines or with aircraft manufacturers. For Christoph Regli, who is himself a licensed pilot, the ZHAW course means that after years in the cockpits of Lufthansa and SWISS, he hardly has time for flying anymore, such are the demands on him as the course’s Programme Director. It’s a position he enjoys, though. “It’s wonderful to see how passionate our students are,” he explains. “And it’s not making vast sums of money that they’re interested in: it’s developing their fascination for aviation to the full.”
A major challenge
Fabian Bisig was one of them. Now 26, Fabian had dreamt of piloting a plane with the Swiss cross on its tail fin ever since his boyhood. He was unable to meet SWISS’s demanding pilot training requirements; but he made his way to the company via the ZHAW’s Aviation course instead. And since graduating, he’s been working in Cabin Crew Planning, coordinating rosters and creating the capacities required. Fabian has only good words about his ZHAW education. “The course really painted the big picture,” he asserts. “It gave me as much insight into the technical side of aviation as the operational, and it was really incredibly varied.” Fabian recommends the course to anyone who loves aviation, though an affinity for numbers is important, too: statistics and algebra are two key subjects, on which almost half the initial student intake founders in the first course year. Those who make it through, though, are all set to get to grips with some of the major challenges facing aviation today. First and foremost here, Christoph Regli feels, are the infrastructural issues raised by an industry that is still expanding by 4 to 5 per cent a year. An amazing 50 million passengers passed through Switzerland’s airports in 2015. “People are travelling more and more,” Christoph explains. “And they’re also travelling more and more individually. Yet the airports are still stuck with all their political restraints.” What’s the answer? “That’s what we’re trying to find out here in Winterthur!” says Christoph with a smile.
The ZHAW bachelor’s degree course in Aviation takes three years to complete. Applicants must have a Swiss baccalaureate and some work experience. The course costs 720 Swiss francs per semester. The ZHAW has teamed up with SWISS to offer the only dual pilot training course in Switzerland, in which all the students’ theoretical pilot training is conducted at the ZHAW.
Text: Renato Beck / Photos: Nelly Rodriquez and ZHAW