By MATT CAMARA
NEW BEDFORD — Bridgewater State University’s flight training program would relocate across the runway and expand considerably under the airport’s newly updated master plan, shown to the public Tuesday night.
“There’s potential to envision an aviation education campus” on the east side of the airport, said James Miklas, an airport planner with Airport Solutions Group.
Whether the conceptual plan comes to fruition will be driven by industry demand, and the particulars are not set in stone, he added.
The New Bedford Regional Airport brought in the Woburn-based Airport Solutions Group to assist with the master plan, which updates an older one dating back to 1996 that included the now-dead proposal to build an air cargo facility, Miklas said.
The new plan calls for narrowing the secondary runway, relocating Bridgewater State’s facilities closer to the airport’s center, and envisions placing the control tower north of the main runway to comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The tower is currently attached to the terminal building, something Miklas said the FAA no longer favors.
Bridgewater State enrolls 100 students in its flight training bachelor’s program and maintains 11 aircraft in New Bedford, said program manager Greg Bongiorno. The university also offers non-credit flight training for people interested in becoming licensed pilots outside of a degree program, he added.
The school’s current facility is large enough to accommodate the program but its location makes scheduling fuel deliveries — there is no on-site fuel tank — and trips to the maintenance shop difficult because those facilities are on the opposite side of the airport.
The added space also would allow Bridgewater State to build its own maintenance hangars, allowing the university to start an aircraft repair program, Bongiorno said.
The master plan also leaves out a fuel tank at the new 18-acre Bridgewater State facility but Bongiorno said he hopes that could be changed should the university seriously consider relocating the program.
“There’s a lot of questions that remain unanswered,” Bongiorno said.
The university’s cabinet discussed expanding the aviation program’s footprint in New Bedford recently, Bongiorno said, but no decisions have been made yet. A combination of state and federal funding could be applied for if the university moves forward with parts of the master plan, he said.