FORT WAYNE — Ivy Tech officials and dignitaries from across northeast Indiana gathered in an airplane hangar at Smith Field on Thursday to dedicate the new home for the community college’s aviation program.
Ivy Tech’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program began five years ago in a building half the size on the other side of the airfield. But the program grew so quickly it was soon overflowing the facility.
The new $2.3 million building at 405 W. Cook Road is 21,000 square feet and houses five classrooms, two computer labs, three working labs and a hangar big enough for the entire Ivy Tech fleet of small planes.
Thursday, the hangar held a Beechcraft Baron, a small helicopter and several aircraft engines in various states of overhaul.
“Last spring, we had 72 students in two classrooms,” Ivy Tech’s Sheena Nolin said. “This fall, we have 100-plus students, … and the capacity is 200.”
The new building can accommodate twice the students of the old, and there is room to double its size if needed. The average wage of an aircraft mechanic in 2010 was $53,280, officials said, and the need for them is growing.
Ivy Tech Chancellor Jerrilee K. Mosier said the program and facility are perfectly placed to help students get jobs and help the industry fill them. “We’re addressing a workforce issue with this program in this location,” Mosier said.
She said the facility could not have happened without partners.
“It really does take a village to make something like this happen,” Mosier said. “Without that support, we wouldn’t be here.”
After the speeches and thank-yous, the dignitaries lined up to cut the ceremonial ribbon with a giant pair of scissors. But rather than bigwigs doing the honors, the ribbon was cut by student Joel Pierce.