NSCC announced during an Airport Authority meeting plans to relocate its Aviation Maintenance Technology program from Gray to a hangar to be built at the airport.
“A program like this is vital,” said new Airport Executive Director Gene Cossey. “Having it here at the airport would go much further in developing Aerospace Park and developing airline service.”
Airport Authority commissioners voted to authorize Chairman Jon Smith to sign a letter committing $551,700 in matching funds expected to be packaged with state funds and an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant to support and equip the new hangar.
“The total value of the ARC grant to be awarded to Northeast State would be $1.6 million,” NSCC grant developer Nikki Morrison told Airport Authority Commissioners.
Richard Blevins, head of the NSCC Aviation Department, gave a hot outlook for the demand for aviation mechanics.
“Southwest Airlines is a good example,” Blevins said. “Four percent of their aircraft is on the ground because they don’t have the mechanics to support that. … I have technicians being hired out of the first year of a two-year program … because demand is so high.”
Boeing’s 2018 Pilot and Technician Outlook projected 189,000 civil aviation technicians would be needed in the next 15 to 20 years in North America, according to a release from NSCC.
The hangar is required for the college’s program to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Thursday’s meeting was the first for Cossey, who was hired to replace Patrick Wilson after he accepted a leadership role at Knoxville’s McGhee-Tyson Airport.
“It’s been a very good experience so far. … Everyone has been extremely welcoming,” Cossey told Airport Authority commissioners. “It’s been a great time. … My only real concerns here are the same concerns that every airport this size across the country is facing — those things with the pilot shortage and airline mergers, the situations outside our control. … We need to position this airport so this is where the airlines want to be.”