WESTFIELD – The upcoming aviation technology program in Westfield got a major boost last week when it was awarded more than $1 million in state funding.
The planned program at Westfield Vocational Technical High School is set to start in September 2015 after a flood of support from Westfield, the state and the business community. The program would provide a path for students from middle school up to college in the aviation industry, and will be the first of its kind in the area.
Greg Bialecki, Housing and Economic Development Secretary, announced the capital equipment grant Dec. 5. Bialecki visited the school in October to view a presentation on the program.
Gulfstream announced in October that it would award $200,000 in grant money to the program.
While more than $1 million from the state takes a major bite out of the funds the school was hoping to raise, the restoration of a hangar at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport still needs more. The Westfield Community Preservation Committee dedicated $500,000 to the hangar’s exterior restoration, but Principal Stefan Czaporowski said the interior needs $1.5-1.7 million.
Czaporowski thanked Bialecki’s office for the grant, and said that while this year’s state budget gap had him nervous, the funding came through as he and other organizers hoped it would.
Czaporowski said exterior restoration of the hangar begins in Spring 2015. The program will begin in Fall 2015 with general aviation and power airframe curricula at the current school building before moving future courses to the hangar.
Czaporowski said that while the project has received overwhelming support throughout the community, other supporters can still lend a hand by reaching out to the high school. He said letters to representatives and senators, as well as Governor-elect Charlie Baker, might help secure future funding for the program.