SIU expands aviation program wings

By: Arnold Wyrick
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Students learning about aviation technology at Southern Illinois University have a wing up on the competition.  They're trained to work on all kinds of aircraft, from the inside-out.
The interim chair for the program says there's a huge demand for quality aircraft technicians.
"There's a tremendous demand for aircraft technicians, even in these bad economic times.  It's the best I've seen in 30 years.  And I don't see any end in sight," said John Cotter, Interim Chair SIU Aviation Technologies.
So the university decided to expand the programs wings and bring on board students at Shawnee Community College.
"It's going to do so much more than just aviation.  It's going to give us a working lab for sheet metal, not only for aviation, but also for heating and air-conditioning.  And it's going to give us a lab to train students on electronics which is huge," said Shawnee Community College President Larry Peterson.
The new 100-square foot training facility will be built at the Cairo Airport.  At a cost estimated to be more than $5 million, it's significant investment in Alexander County and the Southern Illinois region.
"We want SIU to train their students and our students at this facility.  Then we can also go out to the aviation industry and saw we have this training facility right here at this airport.  Bring your aviation needs here and we can train your workers," President Peterson said.
The funds for the expansion of SIU's aviation program could come from President-Elect Barack Obama's stimulus package.
"We're hoping to have the facility up and running by January 2010.  And wouldn't it be great to have the first plane to land there be President Barack Obama in Air-Force One!" exclaimed Peterson.