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Northwest Missouri State University

News Release

Joe and Jo Rankin have been teaching aviation to Northwest students since 1968 at Rankin Airport, located east of Maryville.

Joe and Jo Rankin have been teaching aviation to Northwest students at Rankin Airport, located east of Maryville, since 1968. (Photo by Darren Whitley/University Relations)

June 17, 2013

Students explore new heights with aviation courses

By Philip Gruenwald, media relations assistant

Students can learn to fly aircraft and earn flight certification and piloting licenses with two courses at Rankin Airport through Northwest Missouri State University.

The vocational education courses, ground school with flight and private pilot certification, are taught by Joe and Jo Rankin at Rankin Airport, located east of Maryville. The training, offered every fall, spring and summer trimester, is available to the public; course participants who only want to earn licenses can opt out of receiving college credit.

Aviation engineering and flight can be beneficial to Northwest students’ education. The courses provide practical application for training in GPS technology, engineering, physics, aerodynamics, weather and regulations. As a sign outside Rankin Airport says, “Get a higher education – learn to fly here.”

“These courses give students an understanding about aviation that they can apply in many different ways,” Jo Rankin, aviation course instructor and Rankin Airport co-owner, said. “It helps them understand the technics and engineering behind aviation.”

Since beginning the course in 1968, Rankin has seen graduates become military and airline pilots, specialists with the Federal Aviation Administration, flight instructors, corporate pilots and teachers. One graduate, 1968 Northwest alumnus Dennis Sapp, became a Blue Angels pilot.

Jo Rankin prepares students for ground school flight certification, and Joe takes students in the air to earn a pilot’s certification. Joe has about 18,000 hours of experience in the air and 13,000 as an instructor.

In addition to Northwest tuition, students may take the course for a $230 package that includes a textbook, plotter, a flight computer resembling a round slide rule used for charting routes and a pilot log book. Students also pay $100 for each of the 10 hours of flight required for the pilot’s certification. For those costs, students gain experience that “touches every aspect of modern life,” said Michael Rogers, an aviation enthusiast and assistant professor of mathematics, computer science and information systems at Northwest.

“It teaches you about self-reliance, decision-making and responsibility,” Rogers said. “It also can be the beginning of a lifelong career, because there are lots of pilot jobs opening up. Plus, there is the sheer physical and mental joy of flying.”

Rogers, who owns an aircraft in partnership with three other people, has enjoyed flying since he was young. Similarly, Joe Rankin’s love for aviation took off while working at the Northwest Missouri Regional Airport at age 14. People of all ages take the courses at Rankin Airport through Northwest, but Rogers recommends taking advantage of the opportunity and starting young.

“Like a lot of things, you’re much better learning as an 18-year-old than as a 50-year-old because what you learn can almost become innate skills,” Rogers said. “More than anything else, aviation is applied engineering. It’s a good example of how engineering works in a practical way to solve hard problems.”

For more information on taking the courses, contact adjunct instructor Jo Rankin at 660.582.3791 or Dr. Matt Baker, faculty course correspondent, at

For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468