National Center for Aviation Training in Wichita, KS
If all the airplanes flown by the airlines, the military, businesses and individuals had a sticker saying where they were built, it probably would say “Made in Wichita.”
Wichita companies directly manufacture or provide components for more than half of all general-aviation, commercial and military aircraft. In 2010, Wichita companies delivered 58 percent of all general-aviation aircraft built in the United States.
With so many aerospace companies operating in the region – including Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, Bombardier Learjet, Cessna Aircraft, Hawker Beechcraft, Spirit AeroSystems and Airbus North America – it’s no surprise that Wichita is known as the Air Capital of the World.
Wichita’s aviation cluster is an economic powerhouse. Nearly 30,000 workers – equal to 57 percent of the Wichita metro area’s total manufacturing employment base – are employed by companies making aerospace products and components. Driven by the aircraft industry, manufacturing accounts for more than 18 percent of the region's employment, more than double the national average. Across Kansas, the industry has a $7 billion impact.
Wichita's Aviation Cluster
Business Facilities magazine named Wichita the top metro area for aerospace and defense manufacturing in its 2010 Rankings Report, noting the region's history with its large aviation cluster and "one of the largest aerospace labor pools and supplier networks in the world.”
When it created the National Center for Aviation Training, the Sedgwick County Technical Education and Training Authority took a major step toward making sure Wichita’s skilled labor pool would continue to meet the industry’s needs at a time when increasing numbers of long-time workers are retiring. The industry estimates that it will need 15,000 workers over the next decade.
With 230,000 square feet of space and the capacity to provide technical training for at least 1,500 students in both day and night classes, the state-of-the-art facility provides hands-on, real-world training in general-aviation manufacturing, and aircraft and power-plant mechanics.
NCAT provides the industry with an opportunity to be directly involved in the training of the workers who will build the aircraft of the future. Industry advocate teams made up of aviation industry leaders are invited to examine details of each course and offer their real-world advice.
In addition, NCAT incorporates new facilities for Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research. NIAR has facilities dedicated to CATIA (Computer Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application) training, composites research, non-destructive inspection and advanced-joining technology.
Today 70 percent of the Federal Aviation Administration’s composites research is conducted at NIAR, which was named an FAA Center for Advanced Materials Performance and a NASA Center of Excellence for Aging Aircraft.
The aviation industry works closely with NIAR, says Executive Director Dr. John Tomblin.
The city of Wichita, Sedgwick County and the state of Kansas use NIAR as a selling tool in discussions with new businesses or companies that are looking to relocate, notes Tomblin.
"Not very many cities can offer an aviation manufacturing cluster, a state-of-the-art training facility and a test lab,” Tomblin says. “Because NIAR exists to meet the research and testing needs of the Wichita aviation industry, our clients, especially those in Wichita, trust us to deliver reliable and accurate test results in a timely matter. When it comes down to it, the aviation industry is a close-knit community. When our customers are satisfied by their experience with NIAR, they tell subcontractors and partners. The 'word-of-mouth' endorsement is the best that we can get."
History of Flight
Wichita's history as the world's aviation capital is chronicled at the Kansas Aviation Museum. The museum’s world-class collection of historic artifacts includes one-of-a-kind aircraft and aircraft engines, including a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, a 1934 Model 73 Stearman trainer, a KC 135E tanker and a Beech Starship. Researchers will find an extensive archive including thousands of records, schematics, books, photos and other documents, and a range of additional aviation memorabilia. The museum also is home to the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame, which includes a roster of aviation heavyweights whose names and deeds are known far beyond Kansas. For more, go to www.kansasaviationmuseum.org.