New Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics campus in Washington County to help fill industry void
Butch Adams, PIA Hagerstown campus director, spoke Monday morning during the grand opening ceremony. (By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer / May 20, 2013)
John Graham III, PIA’s president and chief executive officer, said a U.S. Department of Labor and Federal Aviation Administration study in 2003 found that there would be “a severe shortage” in maintenance technicians over the next decade as the country’s population of baby boomers retired.
“They said that over 60 percent of the workforce are over the age of 57 years old, so as those technicians reach retirement ... there’s going to be a huge void that future technicians will need to fill,” Graham said.
On Monday, PIA officials were joined by nearly 100 people to cut the ribbon on the school’s newly completed $2 million branch campus on Pennsylvania Avenue next to Hagerstown Regional Airport.
The 18,000-square-foot building at 14516 Pennsylvania Ave. features a large hangar space, as well as numerous classrooms and shops constructed specifically to provide students with hands-on aircraft training.
“We’re so happy to have this facility to be able to share with the students and share with the community,” Graham said after cutting the ribbon with numerous Hagerstown, Washington County and state officials. “This is a great day for PIA and for Washington County.”
Airport Director Phil Ridenour said the new school campus will not only serve students looking for work in the aviation field, but many of the airport businesses that need Federal Aviation Administration-certified mechanics.
“This is going to be a great thing and provide great opportunities for businesses on the airport; to be able to hire mechanics that come out of this school,” he said. “We know they’re going to be highly trained and they’re going to be looking for a good aviation-related job. And hopefully we’re going to be able to place them here at the Hagerstown Regional Airport.”
The new facility came to be through a public-private partnership between PIA, Washington County and another airport business, Ridenour said.
Financed and owned by PIA, the facility was built by local contractor David Rider, who also owns Rider Jet Center at the airport, and is on a piece of county-owned land that is being leased to the school. Construction on the new campus began in January.
“They really welcomed us with open arms, and made all this building come through on time and under budget and at no cost to the taxpayer,” Graham said of the involvement of local officials involved in the project. “So that certainly helped us.”
PIA Hagerstown Campus Director Butch Adams said about 35 students are enrolled in the local program. Classes at the new location will begin after Memorial Day.
Adams said PIA came to Hagerstown in April 2011 and since then, three classes have graduated from the 16-month program, which has turned out nearly three dozen skilled technicians.
Graduating students have seen placement rates of 85 percent to 90 percent in the last couple of Hagerstown classes, Graham said, although other campuses border on 100 percent.
“If you want a job, there are a lot of opportunities out there,” he said. “You may have to move a little bit ... to sunnier climates, but that’s not too bad of an option.”
PIA was established in 1929, but the school was first opened in 1927 by Glenn Curtiss and Orville Wright as Curtiss-Wright Flying Service. Its main campus is in West Mifflin, Pa., offering degree programs in aviation technology.
Along with Hagerstown, the branch campuses — in Youngstown, Ohio, and Myrtle Beach, S.C. — offer a diploma and/or certificate program in aviation maintenance technology, which qualifies graduates to take FAA tests for certification.