Houston Airports to Build $5M Training Facility for Texas Southern Aviation Students

May 8, 2023
Houston City Council approved a five-year lease agreement between Houston Airports and the HBCU, setting in motion the development of a 2-acre site at Ellington Airport's Houston Spaceport.

May 6—The city of Houston will develop a $5 million training facility for future pilots studying at Texas Southern University.

Houston City Council approved a five-year lease agreement between Houston Airports and the HBCU on Wednesday, setting in motion the development of a 2-acre site at Ellington Airport's Houston Spaceport.

The new Aviation Education Facility will include a 22,000-square-foot aircraft hangar, as well as training and classroom space, an above-ground aviation fuel tank, vehicle parking and a 20,000 square foot apron, also referred to as the "tarmac."

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"We are honored to be the first tenants in this new lease space," said Terence Fontaine, TSU's executive director of aviation. "This opportunity provides an enhanced environment for student learning opportunities as we work to address our nation's critical aviation needs. Furthermore, it provides space for our fleet of eight aircraft to be housed inside and protected from weather conditions, thus allowing us to preserve them for extended use."

TSU will have the right of first refusal to renew the contract at the end of five years, Fontaine said. Construction could begin this summer for an estimated opening in April 2024.

The school's aviation students already train at Ellington but will now have a designated space at the southeast Houston airport. The new facility is the latest of many additions to the program, which has quadrupled in enrollment in the past year, Fontaine said.

Texas Southern launched its aviation science management program in 1986 and offers courses on aviation weather, law, history and safety, and air traffic control. The pilot program began four years ago with the goal of building a pipeline that equips students with either a multi-engine commercial pilot license or a certified flight instructor license, allowing them to move directly to careers at airlines. TSU will also begin a drone program in the fall, Fontaine said.

Houston Airports will charge a discounted annual rent of $60,000 to lease the new facility at Ellington for the next five years, according to city officials.

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"Houston Airports is honored to invest in and inspire the next generation of aviation professionals," said Mario Diaz, Director of Aviation for Houston Airports. "The facility at Ellington Airport continues the illustrious story of Houston's aeronautical history. More than 100 years ago, farmers watched the U.S. Army carve runways through rice fields so the nation's first pilots could train for World War I. Decades later, NASA chose Ellington Airport to train for the Apollo Lunar landing. Soon, students at Texas Southern University will apply the crucial lessons learned at Ellington Airport to revolutionize the aviation industry."

Mayor Sylvester Turner celebrated the agreement on Wednesday as the city's latest investment in Texas Southern. The HBCU launched the Center for Transformative Health in February, using $1 million in seed funding from the city to develop a program focused on health issues in minority populations.


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