By Nick Babel
Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport has been awarded a $600,000 New York State Airport Infrastructure grant, among $10 million awarded for airport capital project improvements across New York State, as part of the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Aviation Capital Grant Program.
The $619,935 grant, awarded through the competitive grant program, will fund construction of a Flight Academy building at the Airport, which will significantly expand the amount of training services offered at the airport.
“Nationwide and in Tompkins County, air service is being held back by a growing pilot shortage,” Airport Manager Mike Hall says. ”With the governor’s support, we will now expand pilot training at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport to help address the critical requirement for more pilots.”
The project involves construction of a 2,500-square foot single-story office building to house a dedicated flight training center, including flight simulation rooms, a lecture hall, classroom and meeting rooms, conference areas, and offices for instructors and support staff. The flight training center will be operated by a new not-for-profit entity, the East Hill Aviation Academy, using resources from the existing East Hill Flying Club.
East Hill Flying Club, an FAA-certified flight school, has been in operation since 1952, pre-dating the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, and is one of the oldest flight training organizations in New York State.
“The entire amount of the grant, plus some private investment will be spent constructing the flight academy. Flight candidates are already drawn to KITH because of the training opportunities available here. This project will favorably affect that draw,” said Hall.
The airport’s successful grant application notes that the project creates an opportunity for growth in the aviation industry, providing an incubator for developing aviation professionals, and addresses needs identified in the 2008 State Airport System Plan Summary Report. The application suggests that state support for this type of development “is necessary to enhance revenue generation and foster economic growth within the aviation market.”
“Basic Private Pilot, Instrument Pilot, Instructor Pilot, Commercial Pilot, single and multi-engine land. In plain English, everything you need, except accumulated flight hours, to be hired by the airlines. The FAA currently requires 1,500 hours of experience for new airline hires. Typically, a new pilot will move from Private to Instrument to Commercial ratings, then get a flight Instructor rating and work for a school while accumulating the required flight hours for airline hire,” says Hall.
He continues, “All this instruction is currently available through East Hill, but at an operational tempo that is constrained by their current facility. The new Academy will significantly boost throughput, while providing a more professional learning environment.”
In announcing the capital project improvement awards, Cuomo stated, “Our airports are the gateways to New York and serve as key drivers of job creation and economic growth for communities across the state. These improvements will help make our airports safer and more accessible to millions of travelers and ensure they remain viable transportation hubs and economic engines for years to come.”
“Airports are enterprise organizations, drawing income from a variety of sources. Although passenger air service is often the face of the airport, it is only the tip of the iceberg,” Hall says. “KITH is the busiest general aviation airport (everything else after air service) in upstate New York and east Hill Flying Club, now East Hill Flight Academy is a big part of that activity. Increasing operational tempo for the airfield through a bigger flight school is good and additional airport revenue will be generated as a result.”
In other related news, the East Hill Aviation Foundation held its third Aspire to Fly Raffle 2016. This year, the raffle honors long-time community leader, friend and foundation supporter Marian Cutting who died earlier this year.
Marian began flying in her 50s and owned a plane up until just a couple of years ago. Proceeds will support the Foundation’s newest scholarship, The Marian Cutting Scholarship for Women in Aviation.
Past raffle scholarship proceeds helped incoming Cornell student Elizabeth Sharp pursue her dream of becoming a pilot and eventually an astronaut, and helped aspiring professional pilot Emma Newman complete her private pilot training.
For more information visit https://rafflecreator.com/pages/1913/third-annual-aspire-to-fly-raffle—2016 .
By Nick Babel