Real Estate & Construction  November 9, 2023

Aims OKs new building at airport for aircraft-maintenance training

GREELEY – A $21.8 million aviation-technology center will be built adjacent to Northern Colorado Regional Airport to support Aims Community College’s new training program for aircraft mechanics.

The Greeley-based college’s board of trustees unanimously approved the plan Wednesday at its regular November meeting.

Aims’ 35,000-square-foot Aircraft Maintenance and Training Center will rise at the Discovery Air Aviation Campus at the airport in Loveland.

“For us at Discovery Air, this is a championship trophy to bring to the campus,” said developer Martin Lind, president and CEO of Windsor-based Water Valley Co., which owns Discovery Air. “Water Valley will build it, and as soon as we get certification, Aims will buy it from us. It likes to own its own buildings.”

A fiscal-impact analysis presented by Aims’ staff in Wednesday’s meeting packet estimated upfront costs for equipment, tenant finish and furnishings at $7.5 million and ownership of the building at $14.3 million including a 10% developer fee.

The staff report recommended that Aims purchase the building, calculating that under such a plan, the program would become profitable after five years, based on a predicted enrollment of 75 students.

Lind told BizWest on Wednesday night that Water Valley would contract with Denver-based PCL Construction, the company that built the Discovery Air hangar, to build the training center.

“I’m super confident we’ll be handing it over to Aims in about a year,” Lind said. “There’ll be classrooms and a hangar. It’ll be hands-on training. It’ll have airplanes it’ll be working on every day.”

“This idea originated a couple years ago but ended up dying,” said Lind, who added that he kept working on the concept with Eric Himler, Aims’ director of aviation. “Our companies, Aims and Eric strategized awhile, and after five or six months of hard work put together a plan.”

The “Airframe and Powerplant Program,” also referred to as an aircraft mechanic technician school, and its associated aircraft-maintenance training center will enhance an already robust aviation program at Aims. The college already offers associate’s degrees in general aviation, professional pilot training and air-traffic control, and this fall became the first college in Colorado and only the 15th two-year college nationwide to offer an associate’s degree for drone operators. That training will eventually be housed in the Gateway Building under construction at Aims’ expanded Windsor campus. The new building, which is scheduled to open in January, will feature a drone fabrication and design lab. The campus is also adding a drone takeoff and landing pad area.

Aims already conducts flight-training courses at the airport, and Lind said the new center would not significantly add to air traffic there.

Aircraft maintenance technician schools are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, with regulations governing curriculum and operating rules.

According to the FAA, there are three such authorized training schools in Colorado: at the Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Broomfield, at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, and a high school program at the Cherry Creek School District’s Innovation Campus.

Students at Aims will have the option of earning either an associate’s degree of applied science in aviation maintenance technology and/or an occupational certificate. The AAS degree will consist of approximately 70 credit hours, although that number will change as the result of changes the FAA is making this year. Additionally, according to the report, students will be able to earn Aims academic certificates that will include general subjects for aircraft maintenance technicians as well as airframe and powerplant training.

According to the staff report, Aims would be “an ideal place” to earn such certification. “Aims Aviation has a proven track record of providing outstanding aviation education,” staffers wrote. “The addition of this program will further support our communities by providing job opportunities in a high-demand career field.

These mechanics “are retiring faster than schools can create graduates,” the staff report noted, adding that “33% of all mechanics are at or near retirement age,” so the training schools “need to produce 2,700 mechanics each year to keep up with projected 20‐year demands. At current certification rates, the mechanic population is expected to increase by 12% over the next 20 years, but still fall 79,000 mechanics short of projected needs by 2039.”

The students, the report said, will “receive training in most industrial systems and processes, giving them a competitive edge in multiple job markets. This training includes education in electrical systems, hydraulic systems, pneumatic systems, wheel and brakes, piston and turbine engines, composite structure fabrication and repair, sheet metal fabrication and repair, welding, drafting and blueprint reading, aircraft design, troubleshooting, record keeping, and federal regulations.”

The return on investment for these graduates is high, the Aims staff report said, noting that the average airframe and powerplant student “is enrolled in a school for 21 months and pays $16,321 in tuition. The average starting annual pay for a certificated A&P mechanic is $45,000. After five years of employment, the Bureau of Labor & Statistics expects A&P mechanics to earn $80,000 per year in Colorado. As of 2020, 58% of all AMTS graduates had employment offers at the time of their graduation.”

Added Lind, “I hope these kids get degrees and stay here in Northern Colorado.”

GREELEY – A $21.8 million aviation-technology center will be built adjacent to Northern Colorado Regional Airport to support Aims Community College’s new training program for aircraft mechanics.

The Greeley-based college’s board of trustees unanimously approved the plan Wednesday at its regular November meeting.

Aims’ 35,000-square-foot Aircraft Maintenance and Training Center will rise at the Discovery Air Aviation Campus at the airport in Loveland.

“For us at Discovery Air, this is a championship trophy to bring to the campus,” said developer Martin Lind, president and CEO of Windsor-based Water Valley Co., which owns Discovery Air. “Water Valley will build it, and as soon as…

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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