Aviation degree to be offered at Robins in community partnership initiative

wcrenshaw@macon.comSeptember 25, 2013 

Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker signs a charter agreement on Wednesday between local communities and Robins Air Force Base to explore potential partnerships.

WARNER ROBINS -- Anyone interested in a career flying planes may be able to find one through Robins Air Force Base, and they won’t have to join the Air Force.

Officials announced an agreement Wednesday in which a college degree in aviation will be offered at the base through Middle Georgia State College’s School of Aviation in Eastman. Instructors there will come to the base to teach the classes, said Col. Patricia Ross, vice commander of the 78th Air Base Wing.

The agreement is part of an ongoing initiative to seek partnerships between the base and surrounding communities. Leaders from Perry, Warner Robins, Houston County, Centerville and Macon signed a charter agreement Wednesday at Flint Energies to signify the commitment to pursuing partnerships. Leaders will continue to meet quarterly to discuss additional partnerships.

“This is really a formal way for us at Robins Air Force Base to synchronize our efforts and figure out the best economic benefit for the base and our community, and also to enhance the military value of Robins Air Force Base,” said Col. Chris Hill, commander of the 78th Air Base Wing.

Currently, the Aero Club at Robins teaches classes in which students can get a pilot’s license -- but not a degree. The degree will be offered in partnership with the Aero Club, which Ross said will make the club more economically viable.

Now, only people who already have base access can get flight training through the Aero Club, but under the agreement anyone can take the classes, although they will have to get a security clearance.

Ross said the agreement will bring additional students and revenue to the club. She said the Aero Club is important because it gives people who work at the base an opportunity to better understand aircraft by learning to fly. Aero Clubs at most bases are struggling financially, she said, and this will be the first agreement of its kind in the Air Force.

“There are many airmen on the base -- civilian, military and contractor -- who want to learn how to fly, and we need to have that opportunity,” Ross said.

Discussions are still being held on the details of the partnership, but Ross said she is hopeful it will be implemented by January or February.

The Air Force is pushing all bases to pursue community partnerships as a way of cutting costs, and in June Robins became one of the first to ink agreements.

Those partnerships related to medical training, sharing firing ranges with law enforcement and work-study partnerships with colleges and technical schools. An agreement was also signed that allows users of the Houston County library system to get any book from the base library, and base library users can get any book from the Houston County system.

Ross said all of those agreements are in action now and have been working well.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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