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Unique Aircraft School Helps Careers Take Flight

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Students will be able to skip the university experience altogether and go straight into the workforce after attaining an education from an innovative new school being constructed in Glendale, Ariz.

A new aviation maintenance school in Arizona will help students proceed directly to the workforce by utilizing hands-on curriculum.
Image courtesy DLR Group
A new aviation maintenance school in Arizona will help students proceed directly to the workforce by utilizing hands-on curriculum.
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The Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC) Aviation Technology Program will allow high school students and adults to partake in two years of training in aircraft maintenance. They will be separate programs, but following the same curriculum.

“We will have approximately 100 juniors and seniors [at a time],” says Cliff Migal, assistant superintendent of West-MEC School District. “The adult program will run the evening hours and our FAA certification will allow us to have 150 trainees at any one time.”

The project, which began last fall and is scheduled to be completed in April, consists of a 40,900-sq-ft, two-story building with a 20,000-sq-ft hangar for students for to work in, with specialized areas for airplane engines, welding, machining and woodworking plus a painting booth. More traditional educational areas include training labs, classrooms, a computer lab, library and offices. Tempe, Ariz.-based McCarthy Building Cos. served as the general contractor and DLR Group’s Phoenix office designed the project.

“The unique part of it was constructing and design on an operating airport sight.” says Tom O’Neil, DLR Group’s office leader and principal for the West-MEC project. “The FAA has regulations above and beyond other regulatory requirements.” The firm also served as the structural and MEP engineer.

With all the special aspects of the facility, it required a little more work than most schools, says Justin Kelton, the project director with McCarthy’s Education Services team and point man for McCarthy on this project. “It was more of a process than would be for a normal school building, but we were very fortunate because all the players were great to deal with.”

The team, along with key subcontractors, utilized building information modeling to facilitate MEP, structural and utility systems clash detection.

Due to its location, the building’s architecture reflects many different aspects of aviation. A tarmac stripe runs from the parking lot through the student plaza into the main hangar, setting the mood immediately for students, faculty and visitors that come to the school.

Upon entering, students are immediately greeted by super graphics on the walls of the hangar that represent what each area of the hangar is used for. There is also a conference room that is designed around the layout of a cockpit.

“I call this emblematic architecture — emblematic in the sense that it is symbolic of its function,” O’Neil says. “We [also] wrapped the building with a golden wing, to symbolize the wings of flight.”

The program consists of close to 2,000 hours of training and allows students to take the FAA licensure exam. Upon passage of this exam, the graduates of the program would be certified to work in any aviation repair shop in the U.S.

The instructors will be trained professionals and licensed airframe and power plant technicians, Migal says.

Key Players

Owner: Western Maricopa Education Center
Architect: DLR Group Architects and Engineers
General Contractor: McCarthy Building Cos. Inc.
Engineers: DLR Group; Atherton Engineering
Key Subcontractors: MC Industrial; Hawkeye Electric; Midstate Mechanical; Aero Automatic Sprinkler Co.

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