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Partnership to develop aviation mechanics school moves forward

Hank Hayes • Mar 2, 2020 at 3:15 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The partnership between Tri-Cities Airport and Northeast State Community College to develop a home to teach next generation aviation mechanics is moving forward.

Airport Authority commissioners on Thursday tabbed Atkins — the engineering firm that works with the airport — to come up with a design to rehabilitate an empty, 40-year-old hangar that will house NSCC’s airframe and power plant mechanics school.

NSCC announced last year that it would move the program from Gray to Tri-Cities Airport, which sits next to the school.

The college wanted to locate the school on its campus, but that decision put an anticipated $1.56 million Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant in jeopardy.

“(Northeast State) did get notice from the ARC that it would affect their grant, and they needed to have a location on the airport to get that grant,” Tri-Cities Airport Executive Director Gene Cossey said. “We believe this (hangar) facility will more than fit the needs of the school. ... We’re shooting for a timeline where the school could be open in the fall of 2021.”

Airport officials view the project as a driver for their Aerospace Park development.

Boeing’s 2019-2038 Pilot and Technician Outlook projected that 769,000 new maintenance technicians will be needed to maintain the global fleet over the next 20 years.

The hangar is required for the program to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.