Aviation College to open Kissimmee campus
By Tiffanie Reynolds
Kissimmee Gateway Airport is rapidly becoming a hub for aviation training in Central Florida.
On Tuesday, Kissimmee city staff and commissioners welcomed Aviator College of Aeronautical Science and Technology to the city’s airport.
News-Gazette Photo/Tiffanie Reynolds
President of Aviator College Michael Cohen, Vice President of Operations Michelle Miller and college staff unveil the front entrance design for its campus in Kissimmee. The campus is expected to open in January 2015.
The campus will serve as an extension to the college’s main campus in Fort Pierce with a focus on airframe and power plant mechanics certification. Located at 606 Dyer Blvd., the college also will create 60 new jobs in the community over the next three years with a company average wage of more than $40,000, officials said.
“It’s always been a challenge to me, since Kissimmee is not the kind of airport where people can go buy tickets and fly out or have their family come through, to try to demonstrate the benefit of the airport to the community,” said Terry Lloyd, director of aviation of Kissimmee Gateway Airport. “But, now, with a school like this, we have people from the community that are going to go out there, learn a trade at the airport. Their family will know about it, their friends will know about it, and it not only makes us more of a community asset, but also more recognized by the community as an asset.”
Aviator College approached Lloyd and Kissimmee Economic Development Director Belinda Ortiz Kirkegard about available space at the airport in April, and college officials expressed interest in purchasing its Kissimmee location during their first visit to the site. The location, 606 Dyer Blvd., across from the Dyer Terminal Building, has been sitting empty for a number of years, Lloyd said.
The college will spend more than $300,000 for interior renovation over the next six months. The Federal Aviation Administration must approve its airframe and power plant mechanics certification program curriculum before the campus can open.
But, the college has a Kissimmee economic development incentives package of more than $399,798 to draw from during those renovations, if it chooses. The projected date for the new campus to open is January 2015.
Kissimmee Gateway Airport was chosen as the college’s new campus not only for its location, but also for its convenience to the Orlando International Airport, where the college is planning on placing its advanced flight training programs to compliment its flight training programs on the main campus at Fort Pierce. With the way the program is currently designed, students can take a one-year airframes and power plant certification course, or a two-year certification course focusing on either airframes or power plant for an annual tuition between $25,000 and $30,000 a year.
“It was a central location for us, and (gave us) the ability to provide some entertainment and weekend relief for our students. Our students train very hard during the week, and to be able to get away a little bit was a good reason why we came here. It’s close to the Orlando International Airport. We have some advanced flight training operations that we’ll be putting into place. So, this was a good fit for us,“ said Michelle Miller, vice president of operations at Aviator College of Aeronautical Science and Technology.
The certification opens the doors to college graduates for any job within the field of aviation mechanics, from general maintenance, repair and inspection of aircraft to mechanics in specific systems. Salaries in this field have an annual wage of $57, 610, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is $24,330 more than Osceola County’s average annual wage of $33,280.
The college also is the newest in a long line of aviation training facilities at the Kissimmee Gateway Airport, including helicopter pilot training and aircraft management. City commissioners believe that more aviation technical training companies will join them in the future.