Airport eyes $20 million education and training facility – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News
Rendering submitted | A proposed flight training center at Medford Airport would consist of a two-story building with adjoining hangars on both sides.
Rendering submitted | A proposed flight training facility at Medford Airport would include two hangars – one to house aircraft for flight instruction and the other for aircraft used in maintenance training.
A $20 million aviation education and training center could see the light of day at Rogue Valley-Medford International Airport. Together with various stakeholders, the airport administration is pushing the project to address the lack of qualified personnel for the flight industry.
“It came to mind when we realized how many gaps we had in the aviation industry,” said Jerry Brienza, airport manager. “I was talking with some of my colleagues. We all have problems with airline cancellations and reduced schedules. We can’t find any pilots.
The pandemic has led to early retirements for many pilots, exacerbating an already tight supply of pilots, Brienza said. Also, other people are needed for aircraft maintenance and engineering and airport management.
A stakeholder meeting in late April drew 22 attendees from higher education, public schools, charter schools, organizations and businesses, Brienza said.
Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey, Rogue Community College President Cathy Kemper-Pelle and Klamath Community College President Roberto Gutierrez attended, along with Medford School District Superintendent Bret Champion. Three charter schools were represented. A staff member from U.S. Representative Cliff Bentz’s office was present, along with representatives from Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. and the Medford Chamber of Commerce.
“At the end of the stakeholder meeting, we had buy-in from people who wanted to take the concept forward,” Brienza said. He then met with Bentz and Oregon House District 6 Representative Kim Wallan about potential opportunities the center would provide.
Jackson County commissioners, who must approve developments at the airport, are behind the project, Brienza said. Commissioner Dave Dotterrer is the Council of Commissioners’ liaison to a nine-member Airport Advisory Committee that recommends airport projects.
The center would provide training in areas such as airport management, pilot training, engineering and aircraft maintenance. Additionally, it may incorporate training on emergency medical services.
When Brienza toured the airfield tenants to discuss the idea, he learned that Mercy Flights had just completed a master plan that included a regional training center for emergency medical responders.
“They were going down the same path at the same time,” Brienza said. “It might be possible to share the costs.”
In response to a request for comment, Mercy Flights General Manager Sheila Clough provided a statement via email.
“We were engaged with the airport in the initial design of the education center, and we are interested in continuing those discussions. In Mercy Flights’ strategic plan, our vision is to create an education program to increase the development professional of employees and others in the EMS and aviation industry,” Clough wrote.
Certifications and degrees would likely be offered by community colleges, Brienza said. “Community colleges will kind of be the first push. They can issue the certificates and diplomas we are looking for.
The center would be located on airport property in the northwest corner of the field. Aircraft would use the taxiways to access it while vehicular traffic would use Oak Drive off Table Rock Road. The location is surrounded by a variety of businesses both on and off airport property.
A two-story building is envisioned with sheds attached to both sides. One hangar would house aircraft for flight instruction, and the other would be used for aircraft involved in maintenance training. Classrooms would likely be on the first floor with offices on the second.
A first phase of the project would see the construction of traffic lanes and a ramp for the facility. The airport will receive federal funds for the work, which was already planned to service existing aircraft hangars in the area. Environmental studies are underway and construction is scheduled for next year. The cost of the project will be approximately $4 million.
The second phase would be the construction of the facility and the infrastructure. The cost has been estimated at $16 million and funding will likely come from federal economic development programs, Brienza said. The airport will also consider possible state funding.
“We continue to deploy antennas to obtain funds for this building,” Brienza said. “We raced to get Connect Oregon money, but we’re not far enough along to get it.”
If funds are secured, work could start in 2025, once the design and engineering have been completed as well as the environmental studies.
Rogue Community College already offers an airframe and power plant mechanic apprentice program in conjunction with the Southern Oregon Aviation JATC as part of an Oregon State program. The course teaches students to maintain and maintain aircraft.
The learning agreement combines on-the-job experience and classroom training over a period of approximately two and a half years. A minimum of 176 hours of training per year is required, along with 4,812 hours of on-the-job training.
Crater Lake Academy, a charter school in White City, offers high school students a flight instruction option. Jonathan Belden, the academy’s director of business and human resources, attended the April session.
Contact Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at [email protected]