- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

NEW IBERIA, La. (AP) - By fall 2017, New Iberia could be buzzing with aviation students - some learning to be pilots and others studying aircraft maintenance.

South Louisiana business leaders and education officials are seeking funds for a new school on the sprawling grounds of Acadiana Regional Airport.

South Louisiana Community College Chancellor Natalie Harder tells The Advocate (https://bit.ly/1K3pMvs) that the aviation school, which would be part of SLCC, would offer two-year associate degrees in aviation maintenance and pilot training.

“This could be a game-changer in south Louisiana,” Harder said.

She said the region already is an aviation hub for the oil and gas industry and commercial travel, and in Lafayette, Bell Helicopter is about to open its $26.3 million assembly plant for its Bell 505 Jet Ranger X.

Harder said the region’s growing aviation sector requires substantial aircraft maintenance. But, she said, there aren’t enough home-grown technicians to meet industry demand, which means that planes and helicopters and the components that make them fly often have to be sent out of state for repair.

SLCC is teaming up with economic development agencies, private industry and the Acadiana Regional Airport in pitching the aviation school. By November they plan to submit a request for the Legislature’s 2016 Capital Outlay program for money to build a 60,000-square-foot hangar and a classroom building.

The request has not been finalized, but a report cites capital costs of $18 million to build the facility. The report, which officials call a “white paper,” also cites estimates of an additional $1 million to $2 million to create the programs and operate the school.

Jason Devillier, director of Acadiana Regional Airport in New Iberia, said officials would submit a capital outlay request of around $20 million.

“We’re going to build the school with the ability to expand,” Devillier said.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com


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