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Feds award grant to Marshall University effort

HUNTINGTON — The U.S. Economic Development Administration has announced a $975,000 grant to support the new Aviation Technology and Maintenance Program, a collaboration of Marshall University, Mountwest Community and Technical College and the Robert C. Byrd Institute.

The program at Huntington Tri-State Airport will offer the first joint associate’s degree in West Virginia. In addition to Federal Aviation Administration airframe and powerplant certifications, students in the 18-month training will earn associate’s of applied science from Marshall and Mountwest.

“Pending FAA certification, we expect the first class of students to begin in spring 2022,” said Charlotte Weber, director and 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.”

Skills taught in the Aviation Technology and Maintenance Program are in demand in a number of other industry sectors, Jim Smith, interim program manager, said. In addition to aviation, graduates of the program will be prepared for employment in the automotive, maritime, oil and gas and renewable energies fields, he said.

The award provides funding for tools and specialized teaching equipment needed to meet FAA certification requirements including for 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.

The Aviation Technology and 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.

The program is in Marshall’s new School of Aviation, which will include the Bill Noe Flight School at Yeager Airport in Charleston to train pilots and a bachelor’s of business administration in aviation management.

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