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Airplane mechanics could be training in Thomson

Aspiring airplane mechanics could soon make the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport their final destination when it comes to learning the trade.

Augusta Technical College is considering locating an aircraft repair training program at the airport for several reasons. The main reason is the close proximity to both the airport and its Thomson campus.

Officials across the board said if this possibility comes to fruition it would have positive results for the county, the school and the airport.

"There's a lot of potential there if we can pull all that together," said McDuffie County Manager Don Norton. "There are some real advantages of having a facility out there to kind of get some activity going on out there at that wonderful (airport)."

The airport's Fixed-Base Operator Keith Bounds said the school would be a "complimentary addition to the airport" that would add exposure to the main facility. He also said it would be directly beneficial from the county's perspective.

"It will bring a few additional jobs to the county," Mr. Bounds said. "Obviously, it will bring offsetting revenue in the form of students who may be coming from outside of the area to attend these classes."

Preston Smith, dean of the Industrial Technology Division at Augusta Tech, said the timeline on the project all depends on the funding. After the building is in place, Mr. Smith will serve as the program administrator and instructor.

"Once the facility gets identified, it will take me approximately six to eight months to get everything set up and ready for classes," Mr. Smith said, adding that January of 2008 would be the absolute earliest that things could be up and running.

McDuffie County officials are currently looking for state funding to assist in getting the $1.5 million facility built, Mr. Norton said.

Last week, representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration reviewed the existing airport facility to make sure it would suit the program. Mr. Bounds said he understood that the review "went favorably."

"If this were to come about, and I'm hoping that it will, in the end, the right decision would have been made to put it there," Mr. Smith said. "It's really the best place for it."

Mr. Bounds agrees with that assessment of the project.

"Here at Thomson, their campus is conjoined with the airport," he said. "...You work on a plane at a college campus; you can't necessarily go get in it and fly it, where here, they could actually have hands-on experience with aircraft that could be potentially flown."

Web posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007

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