cleared for takeoff
Local university gets green light to launch new building at Houston Spaceport
With a financial boost from the City of Houston, the aviation program at Texas Southern University will operate an aeronautical training hub on a two-acre site at Ellington Airport.
The Houston Airport System — which runs Ellington Airport, George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Hobby Airport, and Houston Spaceport — is chipping in as much as $5 billion to build the facility, which will train aeronautical professionals.
On May 3, the Houston City Council authorized a five-year agreement between the airport system and TSU to set up and operate the facility.
The facility will feature:
- A 22,000-square-foot aircraft hangar
- 20,000 square feet of aircraft apron
- 7,200 square feet of office and training space
- A 12,000-gallon, above-ground aviation fuel tank
- Vehicle parking
Thanks to NASA and United Airlines, among other employers, Houston is home to more than 500 aviation and aerospace companies. Over 23,000 people in the Houston area work in the aviation and aerospace sector.
“The air transportation industry in Houston and across the United States is growing and provides career opportunities for those with the skills needed to succeed,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a news release.
Mario Diaz, director of aviation for Houston’s airports, says the new training center will “invest in and inspire the next generation of aviation professionals.”
“The facility at Ellington Airport continues the illustrious story of Houston’s aeronautical history. … Soon, students at Texas Southern University will apply the crucial lessons learned at Ellington Airport to revolutionize the aviation industry,” says Diaz.
Terence Fontaine, executive director of aviation at TSU, says the facility will house his program’s eight aircraft. It also will provide “an enhanced environment for student learning opportunities as we work to address our nation’s critical aviation needs,” says Fontaine.
TSU’s College of Science, Engineering & Technology offers a bachelor’s degree in aviation science management for students pursuing careers at airports, airlines, air traffic control centers, and other employers in the aviation sector. More than 100 students are enrolled in the program.
In January, United CEO Scott Kirby warned that due to shortages of pilots and other airline workers, plans to bulk up capacity in 2023 and beyond “are simply unachievable.”
He noted that United, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Southwest Airlines alone intend to hire about 8,000 pilots this year, compared with a historical range of 6,000 to 7,000 pilots per year.
“We believe any airline that tries to run at the same staffing levels that it had pre-pandemic is bound to fail,” Kirby said on a United earnings call, “and likely to tip over to meltdown anytime there are weather or air traffic control stresses in the system.”
Houston serves as one of United’s hubs. The local hub employs more than 12,000 people. On May 4, the airline held a career fair aimed at filling jobs at George Bush Intercontinental. United plans to add 3,000 employees in Houston by 2026.