Monday, December 14, 2015

US Aviation Academy: Flight school looks to bring Air Force training back to Perrin

In this file photo from March 25, Chuck Wu operates the flight simulator at US Aviation Academy at the North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field. The academy told the Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority board on Monday that it is planning a bid that, if won, would bring U.S. Air Force pilots to NTRA for their first round of training

For nearly 30 years, pilots from both the U.S. Army and Air Force earned their wings at Perrin Air Force Base. While North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field’s history as a military training site is a distant memory for many, a local flight school is looking to reclaim this piece of Perrin’s past.

On Monday, officials with US Aviation Academy, a flight school with one of its campuses at NTRA, asked the Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority to support its effort to secure a 10-year contract to hold U.S. Air Force initial flight training at the airport. US Aviation Executive Vice President Mark Taylor estimated the contract value at $200 million.

“The pride of bringing back Air Force training to this facility is exciting,” Taylor said. “It is a matter of pride to have the opportunity to bring this back to Texas.”

Taylor said the training was previously conducted in Texas until Doss Aviation, which currently holds the contract, moved the operations to its facility in Pueblo, Colorado.

Currently, the majority of the flight school’s students come from East Asia and train to become commercial pilots. If US Aviation is awarded the contract, the two operations will be conducted independently, Taylor said.

Perrin Air Force Base served as a training facility for pilots learning to fly the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger and other aircraft until it closed in 1971. At that time, many training operations were transferred to Randolph Air Force Base outside San Antonio.

Taylor said the school would provide what he described as “the gateway to the Air Force” — the first of four levels of pilot certification needed for Air Force pilots. The contract provides for training for between 750 and 1,950 students each year in classes ranging from 30 students to 100 students.

“Look at it like a pipeline,” Taylor said. “We are the beginning of that pipeline.”

US Aviation has conducted similar training for pilots from foreign militaries, including a class of students from Poland at its Denton location. This training included 25 hours of flight time, 25 hours of classroom training and one hour of solo flight, Taylor said.

GCRMA Board Chairman Clyde Siebman said the board is currently looking at its options for future development at the airport, but supports the initiative at this time. Siebman said as US Aviation moves forward with its proposal, it will require cooperation from the airport regarding facilities and other services. If the contract is obtained, Taylor said it would require US Aviation to construct a housing and dining facility for students.

“What we want to accomplish is to accommodate US Aviation’s attempt to obtain a greater contract without trying up the airport for the long term,” Siebman said, weighing large-scale, high-risk options against smaller, more certain opportunities.

Siebman said, if US Aviation is successful, it could be a great boon for economic growth not only at the airport, but also for the entire region. Taylor said he believes implementation of the program could mean about 125 new jobs in Texoma.

Taylor said his next step will be to speak before the Grayson County Commissioners Court and request a similar motion of support. The bid for the contract will likely be in February or March, he said, noting that incumbents typically have an advantage in seeking these contracts.

“I can think of no better place for this than a reinvigorated training location like Perrin Air Force Base,” Taylor said.

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