TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A group of Tulsa businessmen has purchased the Spartan School of Aeronautics in a $15 million deal.
The team bought the school from a Canadian company and created its own business, Spartan Aviation Industries.
The buyout management group plans to upgrade facilities and expand recruiting and enrollment at the aviation school, which has 1,800 students.
BancFirst, one of the state's largest financial institutions, backed the buyout, officials said. Spartan was acquired from the National Education Centers Inc., a subsidiary of Thomson Corp., the Toronto-based media conglomerate.
Terrell Harrison, president of the school and chief executive officer of Spartan Aviation Industries, said the acquisition was completed during the last two weeks.
Harrison led the buyout team, which includes John Walker, executive vice president and chief financial officer; Jeremy Gibson, executive vice president and chief marketing officer; and Douglas Yost, executive vice president and chief education officer.
``The four of us live here, have families here, and we want Spartan to not only be a training college for pilots and technicians but a part of this community,'' Harrison said. ``After many years of out-of-state ownership, the school is owned by an Oklahoma corporation and Oklahoma people are running it.''
Enrollment at the school has been rising in the past two years after hitting an all-time low of 800 students in 1996 during a slump in the aviation industry. Spartan now is training 1,300 maintenance technicians and 500 pilots.
``We want to get back to the 3,000-student population we had in the late 1980s,'' Harrison said. ``We see no reason why we can't. There are shortages of pilots and technicians because of growth in the industry and the pending retirements of Vietnam-era pilots and technicians.''
Spartan offers programs in aviation maintenance, aviation electronics, aviation instruments, communications, nondestructive testing/quality control and aviation flight training.
The school's facilities include more than 310,000 square feet of classrooms, hangars, labs and administrative offices, and more than 50 aircraft. It has 275 employees, including 45 flight instructors and 65 technical instructors.
Spartan is accredited by the Oklahoma Department of Education, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology.
The Aviation Maintenance Technician and Aviation Flight programs are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The school was founded in 1928 by Tulsa oilman W.G. Skelly. Another oilman, J. Paul Getty, owned the school from 1942 until 1968.