HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Efforts are underway to see if there’s a need for a second federally certified aerospace training center in West Virginia.
The Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) at Marshall University plans to soon conduct feasibility studies that will look at possibilities for development at both Yeager Airport in Charleston and Tri-State Airport near Huntington.
“I think there’s a large labor pool that we could pull from in eastern Kentucky and Ohio into another center which makes West Virginia very attractive to outside companies looking to locate,” RCBI Director Charlotte Weber said.
Currently Pierpont Community and Technical College has the only FAA certified center. Weber said RCBI works with Pierpont. She said it’s not about competing with its north central West Virginia neighbors but rather partnering.
“We’re not trying to duplicate any of the ongoing efforts. As a matter of fact, I think we’re partners with every aviation program there is in the state,” Weber said. “What we want to do is expand our West Virginia footprint.”
The feasibility studies will explore things maintenance repair operations, an aviation school and aircraft maintenance program.
“We’re not only looking at the affability just with Yeager but we’re looking at Tri-State, we’re partnering with Pierpont. We hope by the fall that we’re going to have some introductory aerospace courses being delivered in the Huntington-Charleston area,” Weber said.
Other studies in recent years have said the area is poised and capable for an expansion of the state’s aerospace footprint. Weber said the Trump administration’s Appalachian Sky Initiative to retrain coal miners for aerospace jobs and the construction of a new aluminum plant in Ashland, Kentucky are two other big reasons expansion may be the way to go.
The upcoming feasibly studies will be key, Weber said.
“We have to find out—is it feasible? Can we support it? Can we afford it?”