Campus Expansion

WMU Aviation Center Expansion Nears Completion

Upgrades to the College of Aviation at Western Michigan University’s campus in Battle Creek, Mich., are almost complete. The $20-million renovation project includes new classrooms, labs, a simulator bay, and a research center, and it takes the education aviation center from about 16,000 square feet to more than 60,000 square feet. The new facility is slated to open in early May.

State funding is covering the majority of the project’s costs, with the university filling in the remainder. Other new amenities to the college, located at Battle Creek Executive Airport at Kellogg Field, include briefing rooms, a plane paint lab, faculty office space, a café, and upgrades to technology and other labs.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires pilots to retire when they turn 65. College of Aviation Dean Dave Powell said that in the next 10 years, half of all pilots from the three biggest commercial airlines—United Airlines, Delta Airlines, and American Airlines—are scheduled to retire. United Airlines alone says it will have to hire 10,000 pilots over the coming decade, as well as ground crew positions like technicians and flight operations professionals.

“The demand in aviation is significant,” said Tom Thinnes, recruitment manager for the College of Aviation. “The jobs out there are tremendous. Once we get through the COVID craziness, the airline industry will recover. It is already recovering.”

According to the expansion project’s website, the need to upgrade facilities became clear during a master plan study for the College of Aviation in 2008 and resulting Campus Physical Development Plan released in 2009. “New classrooms and labs are necessary to continue to accept students at the College that will match the quality of instruction and research to the standards of practice needed to meet the needs of the aviation and aerospace industries,” the website says.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].