REEDLEY – Opportunities for growth at the Reedley Municipal Airport are taking off thanks to a partnership between the city and Reedley College’s aviation programs.
Reedley City Council voted 4-0 to authorize items related to the transition of the aviation programs to the airport, including a license agreement for use of the airport and the purchase of a restroom building that will go on airport grounds. Mayor Anita Betancourt was absent from the July 25 meeting.
“This is probably the most exciting project to date I’ve had the privilege of working on as the airport manager,” Reedley Community Services Director Sarah Reid said. “It’s a partnership that makes a lot of sense for both our organizations and will bring more activity to the airport.”
Reid said the city has been working with the State Center Community College District (SCCCD), which Reedley College is a part of, for more than a year to create the agreement that was approved by council. The agreement allows the college’s aviation programs to use a city-owned hangar, have a student parking area, park SCCCD planes in the tie-down area and use open airport space for a pilot’s briefing room facility.
Reedley College and the city will also jointly pay for a prefabricated restroom facility, like ones seen in city parks, that will be installed on the north end of the airport property. The city will ultimately have contributed $80,000 for the restrooms but will initially pay for the entire facility and then be reimbursed by the college.
Estimated costs for the restroom included in the staff report presented to the council show $114,669 for the facility and $75,000 for construction of infrastructure and installation of the restrooms. After the facility is purchased, it will take six months to be delivered, Reid said.
“On the north end of our property we do not have a restroom facility, so this will hugely benefit our tenants along with Reedley College,” Reid said. “It is also going to give us some much needed storage.”
Within the next year, the airport will need to update its 10-year layout plan per Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines and the city is starting to have conversations with Reedley College about what that update will look like, Reid said.
“This is the first step for them, moving their operations out there, and there’s a vision of a large maintenance hangar for them to operate out of and just some other discussions that are happening,” Reid said.
It took the FAA eight months to approve the addition of the restroom facility to airport property, so Reid said they soon need to begin the discussion process of what the airport will look like within the next 10 years, in anticipation of a lengthy process.
Reid also said that with the increased flight traffic the Reedley College aviation programs will bring to the airport, the city will have a better chance at competing for discretionary dollars the FAA has available to fund different projects.
Reedley College currently has two aviation programs: Flight Science and Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT). Reid said students will use the airport to log flight hours and plan their flights out of the pilot’s briefing room the college wants to add to the airport. The college also recently purchased five planes for its students to learn with, two of which are already delivered and at the Reedley Municipal Airport.
The AMT students will use the city-owned hangar to store tools and supplies and work on the large jet that the college owns.
Joseph Woolsey, an AMT instructor, said that the move to the airport will allow the program to expand into slightly larger aircraft, giving students a wider range of skills and experience.
Woolsey and Flight Science Program Coordinator Jaime Luque-Montes said that the aviation programs at Reedley College could be instrumental for members of the greater Reedley community. Luque-Montes said that “it’s a pilot’s market” right now and students who go through the Flight Science Program can find great employment opportunities right out of school.
Additionally, Luque-Montes said that many Reedley College students then become flight instructors for the college to get enough flight hours and experience to get jobs with the airlines.
“Therefore, every two years those pilots are heading to the airlines, so I’m going to need new flight instructors,” Luque-Montes said. “We’re gonna be producing our own flight instructors and then also providing the opportunity for them to have their first flying job so then later on they can get into the airlines.”
He added that because flight instructors are considered adjunct instructors with Reedley College, they can make a significant salary when they first begin, too.
Woolsey and Luque-Montes also both talked about a student who recently graduated and received a job offer from United Airlines that included a $41 per hour wage and a $50,000 signing bonus.
“It’s a game-changer for kids in our communities to go from an average household income of maybe $20-25,000 a year to very very lucrative, high-paying jobs,” Luque-Montes said. “So that’s going to change the landscape and it also has the capacity to lift a lot of people out of poverty, especially from underrepresented groups here in our community.”