Austin Peay buys hangar, fueling future growth of aviation science program

Austin Peay buys hangar, fueling future growth of aviation science program


Austin Peay State University is collaborating with the Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Airport to purchase a hangar for the University’s growing aviation science program. The airport authority board recently approved the sale of the over 13,700-square-foot facility, Hangar 5, to Austin Peay for $780,000.

The purchase will provide much-needed space for the aviation science program that launched in 2019 and has rapidly expanded. The program currently leases about two-thirds of the hangar.

“Acquiring this hangar is a key step in the continued growth and success of our aviation science program,” APSU President Mike Licari said. “As the state’s only bachelor’s degree program in aviation science with a focus on helicopters, we’re committed to providing our students with the best possible facilities and learning experiences. This hangar will help us do that.”

The hangar includes 10,000 square feet of aircraft storage space and about 3,700 square feet of state-of-the-art classroom and office space, including flight simulation stations.

Since its inception, the aviation science program has grown to 53 students and a fleet of six helicopters – two leased Robinson R44s and four owned Guimbal Cabri G2 helicopters.

Dr. Karen Meisch, dean of the College of STEM, said the additional space is critical to supporting the program’s expansion.

“Owning the hangar will allow us to have full control over the facility and to make improvements that will enhance the learning environment for our students,” she said. “It also provides room for our fleet to expand as the program continues to attract more students.”

In December 2022, the program achieved a milestone when it graduated its first seven students, each earning a Bachelor of Science in aviation science with a concentration in rotor-wing flight. All seven also earned their private pilot helicopter certificates. Graduates have gone on to careers in flight instruction, aerial tourism and agricultural support.

Program Director and Chief Pilot Charles Weigandt said the hangar purchase comes at an ideal time, with eight more students expected to graduate in 2024.

“We’re seeing strong demand for our program and expect interest to keep growing,” he said. “Having a dedicated facility with ample space for our aircraft and students will help us meet that demand and provide an outstanding educational experience.”

The aviation science program is designed to take students with no aviation experience to graduation. Weigandt said students receive a well-rounded education along with the opportunity to earn Federal Aviation Administration commercial pilot and flight instructor certifications. The combination makes Austin Peay graduates highly competitive in the job market, especially with the current high demand for helicopter pilots.

Licari lauded the Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Airport’s strong partnership with Austin Peay. The airport authority’s support has been invaluable, from providing hangar space to accommodating the university’s growing helicopter fleet, benefiting the university’s growing number of aviation science students.

“We’re excited about the future of our aviation science program,” Licari said. “This hangar purchase is a significant investment in our students, our university and the Clarksville community.”

The hangar’s acquisition and subsequent land lease are subject to state agency, Austin Peay State University Board of Trustees, and Clarksville-Montgomery County Airport approval. University officials anticipate all processes will conclude smoothly.

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