Arizona State University is spreading its wings at Williams Gateway Airport. After more than a decade of discussions and planning, the two entities have reached an agreement for a new $3 million hangar to house ASU Polytechnic’s aircraft.
According to the deal, the airport will build the facility, which will span 21,000 square feet and include space for classrooms. ASU is signing a 15-year lease for $250,000 a year. Rent will be adjusted every three years to reflect increases in the U.S. Consumer Price Index and changes in the market rate.
The hanger will not house all 17 aircraft ASU uses, said Bill McCurry, head of Polytechnic’s flight program. However, “the basic thing is that the airport has assured us that we will have sufficient space in the hangar and on the ramp to accommodate those aircraft,” he said.
The planes for the Polytechnic program, plus flight training, are provided by Mesa Pilot Development, an arm of Mesa Air Group. They include an A36 Beechcraft Bonanza, PA28-161 Piper Warrior and BE58 Barron models. Currently, the aircraft have to be parked outside, exposed to the elements.
The Williams Gateway Airport Authority is taking out a $3 million loan from the Arizona Department of Transportation to build the hangar. The loan carries an annual interest rate of 4.77 percent, and the airport has a repayment plan that spans 25 years. Payments are set to begin in June 2007, after the hangar has been constructed.
The investment in the hangar is well worth it to airport officials. They say the success of Williams Gateway Airport hinges on the college community, not just its passenger flights.
“Part of the marketing plan for Williams Gateway is we reach out to potential employers relocating to the Valley by promoting ASU Polytechnic and Chandler-Gilbert Community College,” said Brian Sexton, an airport spokesman. “Further expansion (of the colleges) is good news for recruiting new business to the Williams Gateway area.”
Polytechnic and CGCC share the old Williams Air Force Base with Mesa Community College. MCC also offers some aviation careerrelated courses. Its electronics program recently joined an exclusive list of programs approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to train federal airport workers.
CGCC recently won approval from the Maricopa County Community College District for a 40-year lease on another new hangar at the airport. It will hold planes used for training students in aircraft maintenance. The 22,000-square-foot facility will cost $2.6 million to build. Rent for the college starts at $34,884 a year.
CGCC and ASU had discussed collaborating on a new hangar, but safety concerns deterred officials from making such a deal.
The CGCC program is focused on plane maintenance, while Polytechnic specializes in flight training.
Combining the two in one facility could lead to trouble, they said.
Up to 65 students join Polytechnic’s flight training every fall, with 180 professional flight students currently enrolled.
McCurry believes the program will continue to grow.
“We think we can build that up to 250 students,” McCurry said.
He noted that the flight program costs much more than just the $4,343 in annual tuition at Polytechnic. Students in the flight program pay up to $50,000 for training and other such expenses.
Total enrollment at Polytechnic is expected to grow over the next decade.
ASU officials predict that more than 10,000 students will be taking classes there by 2012, as the university adds and enhances programs.
The expansion is part of ASU President Michael Crow’s strategy for building up ASU.
Some 4,865 students took classes at Polytechnic last fall — four times more than the 1,000 students taking courses there in fall 1996, when the campus opened.