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New Law Launches Hilo Aviation Training Center

Posted July 9, 2013, 04:48 PM HST Updated July 9, 2013, 11:50 PM HST
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Hilo Sen. Gil Kahele, fourth from left, joins Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, center, and House colleagues in the signing today of the the law providing initial funding for an international flight training center in Hilo. Kahele was a co-sponsor of the measure. Senate courtesy photo.

A bill signed into law today launched an international flight training center in Hilo.

Senate Bill 1221 appropriates $100,000 to hire a program coordinator and a technical support staff member for the center and associated aeronautical training programs at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Hawaii Community College.

The new staff will work with the chancellors of the two schools and the state’s aviation community to study and plan for the addition of new programs.

According to the bill, a proposed pilot program will be administered at UH-Hilo, while the proposed helicopter pilot program and unmanned aircraft systems pilot program will be conducted through HCC.

The programs were recommended by an exploratory committee established by state lawmakers during the 2012 session.

According to testimony submitted to lawmakers by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, there is a growing demand for pilots and aviation maintenance workers.

Hilo International Airport would provide an ideal training ground by virtue of its weather conditions, underutilized land, low level of air traffic and state-of-the-art air controller and radar facilities, said DBEDT Director Richard Lim.

File photo.

File photo.

Among the wide group of supporters for the proposal was Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi, who said that hundreds of Hawaii students currently are forced to go to the mainland to attend flight programs.

“This represents a loss of talented young people from our state as well as the loss of millions of dollars in direct expenditures that could be contributing to Hawaii’s economy,” Kenoi said in written testimony.

The mayor noted that the Hawai‘i Aviation Exploratory Committee believed that adding aeronautical training programs at UH-Hilo and HCC would open the way to important future advances in science, technology, engineering and math program on both campuses.

“These programs will help create high technology, high-wage jobs for our young people in areas such as avionics and electronics, flight dispatch, air traffic control, flight operations management, maintenance management and other fields,” Kenoi said.

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