Lake Charles Announces $3.5M Grant for New Flight Training School at SOWELA Technical Community College

By Calcasieu Staff
Published April 09, 2024

Share This:

Lake Charles, Louisiana – SOWELA Technical Community College Secures $3.5M Grant to Launch Flight Training School in Lake Charles

SOWELA Technical Community College has recently been awarded a significant $3.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Economic Development Administration (EDA) to establish a cutting-edge flight training school in Lake Charles. This groundbreaking project, bolstered by a $2 million contribution from the City of Lake Charles and $1.1 million from SOWELA, aims to revolutionize aerospace workforce development in the region.

Dr. Neil Aspinwall, Chancellor of SOWELA, highlighted the college’s existing Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) Aviation program and its strong partnership with Chennault International Airport as key factors driving the decision to pursue this ambitious initiative. The infusion of the EDA Grant will play a pivotal role in constructing the physical facility and acquiring essential equipment to kickstart the program.

The flight training school will offer aspiring pilots comprehensive training programs leading to a Private Pilot’s License (PPL) and commercial flight training. This strategic move seeks to meet the escalating demand for skilled pilots and create an accessible pathway to lucrative aviation careers.

The project encompasses a state-of-the-art flight school center featuring a sophisticated flight simulator, aviation hangar, and meeting space, designed to deliver a world-class training experience for future pilots. Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter expressed excitement over the project, emphasizing its importance in economic diversification, workforce development, and the overall growth of the community.

Industry collaboration for the SOWELA Flight School involves key advisors from Chennault International Airport, Lake Charles Regional Airport, Planet Air, and Noble Development, among others, with a projected creation of over 170 jobs. Kevin Melton, Executive Director of Chennault, lauded the investment in aviation education as a significant step towards enhancing growth and innovation in the regional aviation sector.

With Commercial Pilots being highly sought after and lucrative positions, the project’s impact is poised to be substantial. Heath Allen, Executive Director of Lake Charles Regional Airport, praised SOWELA’s reputation for producing top-tier aviation maintenance technicians and highlighted the flight school’s role in addressing the industry’s pressing labor shortage.

According to a Louisiana Workforce Commission report, the demand for Commercial Pilots is expected to surge in the coming years, with North America facing a significant shortage in pilot numbers. A groundbreaking event for the SOWELA Flight School is anticipated to take place later this year, marking a new chapter in the region’s aviation landscape.