11:03 AM

Momentum - High-flying new home

Mohawk aviation students are about to move into the state-of-the-art Centre for Aviation Technology thanks to a partnership with KF Aerospace

The Centre for Aviation Technology at Hamilton International Airport will soon be a state-of-the-art new home for Mohawk College’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineering program.

It will bring the college’s three aviation streams – now spread out at four learning sites – together under one roof. That roof is shared with KF Aerospace (KFA), one of Canada’s largest aircraft maintenance providers.

The company opened a $30-million expansion of its Hamilton facility a year ago and then got to work on an 80,000-square-foot hangar and learning hub for Mohawk students right next door that the college will lease for 10 years.

“It’s a real operational setting. You couldn’t find a better location,” said Paul Armstrong, Mohawk’s Chief Operating Officer.

“There is no better place to run an aviation program than right at the airport,” agreed Dean of Engineering Technology David Santi. “Students will be learning right next door to hundreds of aviation engineers, mechanics and aerospace companies. That is a huge bonus.”

Another key advantage, says George Miltenburg, Associate Dean of Engineering Technology, is the facility’s airside access to an international airport.

“Any-sized airplane can land there and taxi right up to the school.”

The airport learning site will also feature a new $260,000 L3Harris Boeing 737 virtual maintenance training system. Mohawk is the only school in Canada to use the virtual tool and is the largest academic user in North America.

The aviation hub will also include an applied research centre that will undertake exploration into composite materials and perhaps aerospace manufacturing in the future, says Santi.

KFA has been working in its part of the new facility since November 2019, says Grant Stevens, Vice President of Corporate Services.

“We are really excited to see Mohawk students move in. This will be a beautiful training facility. It’s state-of-the-art and has a lot of natural light and lots of flexible learning spaces. They can open the hangar doors and see the planes coming and going.”

A similar facility shared between Okanagan College and KFA in Kelowna, B.C. has been a great recruitment tool for the college, says Stevens.

“There is power for students and parents to visit a school and working environment that are side by side. They can see first-hand where the education will lead. It’s a job fair and orientation all at once.”

Students and KFA employees will share common space, including the cafeteria and the parking lot, leading to a “cross pollination between students and professionals that is unique in Ontario and maybe the country,” said Miltenburg.

The new facility could allow Mohawk to double enrolment in its three two-year programs – maintenance, structures and avionics – that cover aircraft from nose to tail. The first group of avionics students graduated in 2020.

Santi says the college is focused on becoming a premier aviation maintenance school in Canada.

“Mohawk is very eager to continue to enhance their aviation program and we’ve seen that in action in the number of students they are graduating and now the new facility they will have,” said Kal Rebin, Vice President of Maintenance and Engineering at Jazz Aviation.

Rebin, who sits on Mohawk’s program advisory committee, says the industry has been in urgent need of talent for years. The pandemic has put that on pause, but when a rebound occurs, a wave of early retirements is expected to make the shortage even more acute.

Photos - aviation students at Mohawk College