TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) is in line to receive $3.75 million in state funds to expand its Aviation facilities and help address the nation’s pilot shortage. The critical investment was approved in the state’s supplemental budget Wednesday. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign it in the coming days.
The funding from the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity will be used to renovate and expand NMC’s 47-year-old Aviation hangar and purchase additional aircraft. This will allow NMC Aviation to increase its capacity to train more pilots, as identified in the college’s strategic plan.
“This effort has been more than a year in the making. We are grateful for the support and advocacy from our state lawmakers, like Sen. John Damoose, who was a key champion of this project, as well as support from members of the house including Rep. Betsy Coffia and Rep. Curt VanderWall. They see the value in investing in NMC to meet the region’s workforce needs,” said NMC President Dr. Nick Nissley. “This is a powerful example of what we can achieve together for northern Michigan through collaboration.”
NMC must provide a 50 percent match to the state investment. The total project cost is $5 million for the hangar renovation and $2 million for the acquisition of four new, technically advanced aircraft for flight training.
“Northwestern Michigan College has a very well-respected and in-demand aviation program from both the industry and student perspectives. Our biggest challenge has been not being able to expand,” said NMC Aviation Director Alex Bloye. “Now, thanks to this investment, we can train even more exceptional pilots.”
NMC Aviation enrolls 50 students per year, but has a two-year waitlist. Graduates experience 100 percent job placement. According to Bloye, airlines are poised for their busiest year of pilot hiring in more than three decades. Airlines are reducing flights and services due to the current labor shortage. During the pandemic, 5,000 U.S. pilots took early retirement. Nearly a third of pilots are expected to retire by 2035.
The current NMC hangar, built in 1976, does not functionally support the program’s demand. This renovation project will transform the hangar into a thriving Student Aviation Center. The renovated hangar will be an innovative, functional, and secure facility to store and maintain NMC’s growing fleet of technically-advanced aircraft. It also provides for expanded simulation lab space and other student spaces for testing, studying and collaboration.
Release date: MARCH 2, 2023
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