Nestled a few miles from downtown Greensboro, a visitor may be surprised to stumble upon the global headquarters of Honda Aircraft, the national headquarters of HAECO (Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company), and a Textron service center. These businesses, employing thousands of people, are adjacent to one of Guilford Technical Community College’s aviation campuses.
“If you’re going to talk about aviation training in North Carolina, you are at ground zero,” stated Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC) President Randy Parker. “We have the largest aviation program in the state, probably the biggest in several states, and one of the three largest programs on the east coast. In our labs, you will find equipment you won’t see at the universities or most community colleges in North Carolina or the states around us.”
The newest of multiple aviation campuses at GTCC is Caesar Cone II Aviation Building. It sits on 20 acres of land purchased in 2008 through GTCC’s disbursement from a bond and is next to the world headquarters for Honda Aircraft Company. Honda Aircraft made Greensboro their world headquarters in 2007.
Ceasar Cone II is the primary home for the aviation electronic (avionics) program. The building holds classroom space, assorted labs, and four flight simulators that novice pilots use to train before hitting the airways.
The flight simulator room allows students to practice flying without the danger of being in the air and allows them to better understand the various elements to which they are introduced in the classroom. Students interested in becoming a licensed pilot are able to earn flight hours on the simulators, while local pilots who need to maintain their license can use the simulators as well.
Audrey Floyd, director of the Aviation Management Program, shares more on how the flight simulators help students:
GTCC already has plans for a second building on the 20 acre lot next to Honda Aircraft headquarters. Nick Yale, Director of Aviation, explains what students in the avionics program learn:
Honda, HAECO, and Textron are representative of some of the leading companies in the area that are jumping at the chance to hire graduates of the Guilford Tech program. Parker also indicated many students look for work outside the area, with one primary target being Boeing’s facility in Charleston, South Carolina.
Given the unique program, GTCC is seeking to attract more students around the state. However, regulations around community college advertising limit the ability of colleges to promote outside of their service area, or the counties they directly serve. According to Yale, the aviation program is often asked to come to job fairs in other counties, but they must first seek approval from the college who services the county. While Yale said they have not had push back on attending those events to date, seeking permission adds a layer of complexity to their work.
Parker pointed to the overall success of the program, saying, “When they finish this program with their licensing, they can work anywhere in the world on almost every type of aircraft whether it was built in 1920 or whether it was a 787 just launched off the line.”