Aviation partnership is win-win for Robins AFB, Central Georgia Technical College
When Robins North opens later this year, a group of Central Georgia Technical College students will be able to get a closeup view of what their future may hold in the aviation industry.
The partnership between the technical college, Robins Air Force Base and local and state governments was hailed as a groundbreaking when it was announced April 5 before hundreds gathered inside the former Boeing hangar at Middle Georgia Regional Airport.
Leaders with Robins and CGTC detailed this week how the partnership will work and will become an economic driver for the region.
The two groups working out of Robins North will be the base’s 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group and CGTC’s aviation maintenance and aircraft structural programs.
“What it’s going to do is put us all in one location so we’re going to have the space to expand,” said Shane Waldon, division chair of Aerospace and Transportation at Central Georgia Technical College. “The growth in both programs allows us to provide more employees not only to Robins Air Force Base and the region but also statewide and globally.”
There will be about 200 base employees and the same number of CGTC students at Robins North by the time the new school year begins in August.
The new facility should allow CGTC to expand the two aircraft programs by another 100 students, Waldon said.
Students can watch airplane repairs
More space also is needed for Robins as its workload surges over the next several years.
In 2018, the base announced it would get 400 new jobs as it takes on maintenance responsibilities for C-130 transport planes flown by the Navy and Marine Corps.
The maintenance group is currently comprised of about 2,000 employees. Ten percent of that workforce will be at Robins North, according to Dennis Glover, the director of 574th Commodities Maintenance Squadron, which is part of the 402nd.
The two main roles of the 402nd are military aircraft repairs and ensuring there are enough spare parts.
There are security measures that have to be followed at Robins North because the work involves U.S. Department of Defense aircraft. The technical college students will be able to watch as workers repair ramps, doors and other airplane components.
Glover’s group will help get the facility ready over the spring and summer.
“We have a short amount of time to turn those around and get them back (out),” he said. “I think in the beginning, until we get everything worked out, we’ll escort students around and they’ll be looking over the shoulder watching what we’re doing.”
The regional airport will receive $780,000 a year as part of the lease agreement.
Why partnership is vital
The long-term experience gained at Robins North should help CGTC graduates as they embark on their careers.
Jacob Gramling, 26, is several weeks away from graduating with a degree in Aviation Maintenance Technology from Central Georgia Technical College. Although he’ll miss out on the experience of the partnership, he says it’ll be a great opportunity for future students.
“I think it’s going to benefit them quite a bit,” Gramling said while taking a break during Tuesday’s aircraft propeller class. “Just being around people that are in the industry, seeing how they do things how things operate outside of the school environment in an actual industrial sense.”
There is already a relationship between the technical college and the base. The base has an apprenticeship program that prepares a new crop of workers in the aviation industry.
It’s even more pressing to find new employees and more space as the number of aircraft Robins services continues to grow, said Tim Gray, director of the 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group.
“This provides a perfect industrial facility that, in a lot of cases, is in better shape than our facilities in Warner Robins,” he said. “We have a huge sustainment mission that’s growing and expanding and the DoD is asking us to do more.”
Many of the aircrafts that come through Robins are more than 40 years old. They are brought to Robins for major inspection and operation about every five years.
“It’s like a recall on your car,” Gray said. “We do a lot of modifications to upgrade that airplane so when it’s flying they have all the modern bells and whistles on it.”
Robins North will allow CGTC students to see that work as it’s being performed, he said.
“You get a much better perspective of it if you can see if for yourself rather than in a quiet classroom,” Gray said.