A $975,000 award from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced this week is the latest major grant to support development of the region’s new Aviation Technology & Maintenance Program, a joint venture of Marshall University, Mountwest Community & Technical College and the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI).
The program, to be located at Huntington Tri-State Airport, will offer the first joint associate degree in West Virginia. In addition to FAA airframe and powerplant certifications, students enrolled in the 18-month training will earn associate of applied science degrees from Marshall and Mountwest.
“Pending FAA certification, we expect the first class of students to begin in spring 2022,” said Charlotte Weber, director & CEO of RCBI, which will manage the program. “Not only will our program help meet a critical need for new aviation technicians and mechanics, it will serve as a catalyst for economic development by attracting new industry and expansion in our region.”
“The skills taught in the Aviation Technology & Maintenance Program are in demand in a number of other industry sectors,” said Jim Smith, interim program manager. “In addition to aviation, graduates of the program will be prepared for employment in such fields as automotive, maritime, oil and gas and renewable energies.”
The most recent EDA award provides funding for tools and specialized teaching equipment needed to meet FAA certification requirements. These include piston and jet engine test beds, aircraft system and avionics trainers as well as required equipment for courses in structural sheet metal and composite materials.
“Receiving this major federal grant from the EDA will certainly help boost our collaborative aviation program at Tri-State Airport,” said Dr. Jerome A. Gilbert, president of Marshall University. “I want to thank Charlotte Weber, Jim Smith and everyone involved with developing the aviation maintenance program. I am convinced we are meeting a crucial need for the airline industry through our new focus on aviation.”
The Aviation Technology & Maintenance Program previously received nearly $1.75 million in federal and local funding to support staff and general operating costs for its first two years. Renovations will begin soon on two airport hangers that will serve as classrooms and laboratory space for the program. In addition, the process is underway to hire a director and certified instructors.