Sunday, June 5, 2016

US Aviation looking to bring military flight training to North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field (KGYI)

Kathryn's Report:

It has been more than 40 years since Perrin Air Force Base was decommissioned, bringing an end to an era for Texoma. While the days of military training are a distant memory for man, local officials are looking to bring back part of that past by performing military flight training to North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field.

Officials with US Aviation Academy, a flight school which operates a campus at NTRA, are currently looking to acquire a 10-year contract to hold U.S. Air Force initial flight training at the airfield. Officials said they plan to submit a proposal to the U.S. Department of Defense for the contract by June 30.

“This is a very niche market and very specific training,” US Aviation Vice President Mark Taylor said Wednesday. “With our previous training we realized we are going to be very competitive when this contract comes up for rebid.”

The contract is currently held by Doss Aviation, operating out of Pueblo, Colorado. Taylor said this contract would cover the first of four stages of flight training for potential Air Force pilots over the course of 30 to 60 days. Taylor valued the contract at $250 million-$290 million over the course of 10 years, depending on the number of students. In one year, the school could see between 1,500 and 1,950 students, with an average class size of about 130 to 210, he said.

Previously, US Aviation acquired a similar contract through the U.S. Department of Defense to train military pilots from allied countries at its facility in Denton, including Nigeria and Poland, Taylor said. Currently, the company provides training for commercial pilots from across the world, with about 120 students, primarily from Asia, taking classes now.

“The three things (the Department of Defense) looks at are past performance, management performance and cost effectiveness,” Taylor said, highlighting previous training experience and cost effectiveness as US Aviation’s strengths over Doss Aviation.

Under the new contract, Taylor said the training of foreign pilots and remote drone operators will be included in the scope of training.

If US Aviation is awarded the contract, Taylor said it will represent a large investment by the company in the airfield, with 120 new full-time jobs created to cover the new operations. In addition to a $25 million investment for new aircraft from the program, US Aviation will need to complete work on the airport’s north alert hangar and construct a 200-unit facility to house the pilot trainees.

“That means jobs for construction and redevelopment of Perrin Field,” he said.

Taylor said the contract would not interfere with its current flight school operations and both would still be able to take place at NTRA.

“That is the beauty of NTRA — its size allow us to do both of these operations uninterrupted,” he said.

In describing the economic impact of this contract, Denison Development Alliance Vice President William Myers said it isn’t like many other developments. Compared to other businesses, it represents few jobs, with most carrying an above-average salary. Instead of bringing its income from the community itself, Myers compared it instead to Texoma Medical Center in that much of its funding would come from outside sources, bringing fresh money to the economy.

Myers also noted that the pilots will be living, shopping and spending money in the community while they train for two months.

“I think this is unique in the fact that it will redevelop the airport,” Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said. “There is nothing similar to it in Grayson County.”

Officials with the county, DDA and Sherman Economic Development Corporation said they support the project but feel it is too early in the process to offer incentives for the operations. However, officials said there could be talks in the future of how these organizations can help in the effort.

Beyond the direct economic impact of the contract, Taylor said the increased operations would bring an additional 40,000 flight hours for pilots operating out of NTRA. This could help the airport in its ongoing efforts to enter into the Federal Aviation Administration’s contract tower program, he said.

Through this program, the FAA would provide $500,000 in funding for the airport’s control tower, resulting in more personnel and overlap hours for the facility. It would also save the county $275,000 in funding for the facility.

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