Real Estate & Construction  July 2, 2024

Aims buys former Blue Ocean hangar for new maintenance program

GREELEY and LOVELAND — Aims Community College has taken its next step in creating its new Aircraft Maintenance Training Center. The college on June 18 closed on a $19.5 million property at the Northern Colorado Regional Airport previously owned by Blue Ocean Aviation LLC, which is affiliated with Otter Products LLC.

The Aims Board of Trustees approved creating the degree program in November 2023 and put aside $21 million to buy a new building from Discovery Air, which is owned by Martin Lind, CEO of Windsor-based Water Valley Co.

Eric Himler, director of Aims’ Aviation program, said the original plan was to locate the new center at Discovery Air, but when the Blue Ocean building became available, they were obligated to look, and the Board of Trustees decided that was the place to spread the program’s wings. By moving to the Blue Ocean hangar, the program would have 55,000+ square feet of room — about 18,000 more than the original plan.

“The Blue Ocean hangar fit the need for an aircraft maintenance tech center in large part because it offers everything this program needs to grow,” Himler said. “The aviation ecosystem is one of emerging technologies. We talk about flexible learning space that branches in between manned and unmanned flight, and having this large of a footprint will allow us to have the space to adapt to new and evolving technologies.”

This is the latest in a six-year move to boost recognition of Aims’ flight-training program to meet growing industry demand. The college moved its flight-training center to the Northern Colorado Regional Airport from the Greeley-Weld County Airport in 2018 after 50 years there. The news was not met with excitement from those on the Weld County side, noting the large amount of property taxes that Weld residents put into the program.

But operating in Loveland would allow the college to own its buildings, which it could not do in Greeley, according to previous reports.

According to Larimer County property records, the sale includes two storage buildings, land, and a three-story office building with 20 rooms. 

The three-story building, Himler said, is essentially turnkey, with only installing proper signage being the immediate concern. The college also will spend roughly $3 million to $5 million to equip the maintenance program. He said the college also will hire its own technicians to maintain the program’s aircraft rather than relying on a third-party contractor.

Aims now offers programs in pilot flight training, Unmanned Aircraft Systems drone piloting program, and air traffic control. 

“This maintenance program, which will launch in 2026, will be the fourth program under the aviation program’s umbrella for Aims, and it will round out our system, essentially manned flight, unmanned flight, maintenance of both and air traffic control,” Himler said.

Aims’ expectations a student enrollment of 75 in the first five years, and 150 students by year 10.

It will take the next year to get the proper Federal Aviation certification for the aircraft maintenance program, which will allow graduates to take FAA testing for their careers. It will be one of only three such programs in the state, the furthest north of which is in Broomfield.“I believe Aims’ department of aviation has become the premier two-year education aviation program in the nation,” Himler said. “Adding an AMP program to already existing aviation programs I believe we will again become one the best in the country.”

Aims Community College has taken its next step in creating its new Aircraft Maintenance Training Center at the Northern Colorado Regional Airport.

Sharon Dunn
Sharon Dunn is an award-winning journalist covering business, banking, real estate, energy, local government and crime in Northern Colorado since 1994. She began her journalism career in Alaska after graduating Metropolitan State College in Denver in 1992. She found her way back to Colorado, where she worked at the Greeley Tribune for 25 years. She has a master's degree in communications management from the University of Denver. She is married and has one grown daughter — and a beloved English pointer at her side while she writes. When not writing, you may find her enjoying embroidery and crochet projects, watching football, or kayaking and birdwatching on a high-mountain lake.
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