(AERONAUTICS CENTER OF TECHNOLOGY PHOTO BY KAREN RODRUGUEZ)
The Aeronautical Center of Technology at the Indy South Greenwood Airport is a dream come true for the school’s director Roger Tomey and all personnel associated with the founding and growth of the school.
Tomey also serves as the president of the Experimental Aircraft Association (E.A.A.) Chapter 1354 and was among many organization members and other volunteers who made the large center building a reality.
“This has been a long time coming,” Tomey said after a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony and public tours of the 5,000-square foot hanger/learning center that has a large classroom for 20 students, a room with flight simulators, a 3D print room, reception area, and hangar. “If it hadn’t been for a community of pilots, volunteer workers, the city of Greenwood, and airport manager, this would never have happened.”
The second floor is unfinished, but it will eventually have three classrooms and a technology room where students can build RC airplanes, develop airfoils and propellers, with 3D printers.
The Aeronautical Center of Technology (A.C.T.) is the realization of a dream that began 10 years ago with pilots in the local Experimental Aircraft Association. Tomey praised volunteers Dean Cantrell and Joe Thompson for their part in getting the A.C.T. hanger going. They helped build the center with volunteer labor.
To take the facility and programs to the next level, Tomey emphasized the need for corporate donations and funding to complete the hangar. Cost of completing the second floor is $80,000. Sponsors, business or individuals, also can sponsor a student for $1,700 per semester and cover the student’s costs at the A.C.T. More long-term financial support is needed, too.
“We must have more corporate support to finish the inside of the building, pay off a huge debt and provide operating capitol; so this is a golden opportunity to support aeronautics students and related technology into the future,” Tomey said.
The A.C.T. is needed desperately due to a pending major commercial pilot shortage. Tomey said Federal Aviation Administration figures show that the industry will be 5,000 pilots short by 2025 and 14,000 short by 2030.
“The amount of collaboration that has taken place to make today a reality is absolutely fabulous,” said Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, one of four keynote speakers at the ground-breaking ceremony. “It’s (also) about the community giving their time, their talent, their donations, their knowledge to be able to prepare the next generation of aviation and engineering leaders in our state … you are providing for the future of aviation.”
Beginning July 31, courses offered to middle and high school students include private pilot theory, intro to aviation technology, aviation operations, rocket propulsion, and UAS (drone) systems. Club students may join aircraft engineering and build plus 3D printing and engineering programs. Classes are limited in size.
Students are urged to contact their high school vocational counselor for information.
The Private Pilot Ground School prepares students to pass the FAA Private Pilot written exam. The elite pilot program is a nine-week program consisting of six-plus hours of flight instruction per week. Upon completion, the student becomes a Single Engine Land Private Pilot.
Greenwood, Center Grove, Perry Township, and Roncalli schools are partners in A.C.T. along with the Tuskegee Airmen Indianapolis Chapter.
Tomey stresses that incoming students must have the commitment to complete their aeronautical center programs and pilot programs because of expenses.
Katie Essex, who graduated from Southport High School in June, will be a freshman at Purdue University where she will major in aeronautics. She went through the A.C.T. programs and earned her private pilot’s license at the Greenwood airport.
“I found my passion for flying here,” Essex said. “I just knew I had to fly and thought I would have to travel far to get this opportunity; but here near my home, Greenwood facilitated my flight journey. It was an amazing opportunity to learn in this environment.”
Essex began flight school as the second youngest student in her class with several older adults. She goes to Purdue with an aviation scholarship and has the desire to join a flight school and teach young people to become pilots.
She also gained notoriety at Southport High School where she founded Minimovers that modifies little cars for children with anatomical disabilities so they can enjoy driving tiny cars. She also was part of the robotics program.
Roncalli senior Lily Lewen also attended the A.C.T. open house. She is a student in the center’s 3D printing club and hopes to study aeronautical engineering at Purdue. Retired U.S. Air Force pilot Samuel J. Murray, past president of the Indianapolis Tuskegee Alumni Club, introduced three prospective A.C.T. students to Tomey.
During the open house, scores of youngsters and teens used the flight simulators, engaged in a 3D printing demonstration, and also witnessed a rocket flight simulation with EAA Greenwood president Greg Hill.
Students also showed attendees how to put metal sheets together for an airplane wing.
Pilot and State Rep. Mike Speedy has donated a single-engine plane for students in the aircraft construction program.
Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers emphasized that the E.A.A. and A.C.T. provide young people with the education for a career that they might not have experienced if the center did not exist.
The airport is at 897 Airport Parkway off County Line Road. The A.C.T. is in hangar F-1.
(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY AL STILLEY)